Missing Monet Moments in Modern Art

Brought to you by this announcement: https://mymodernmet.com/metropolitan-museum-of-art-open-access/

“Renowned for its comprehensive collection of work that captures “5,000 years of art spanning all cultures and time periods,” New York City’s world famous Metropolitan Museum of Art has recently announced that 375,000 of its pieces in the public domain are now available without restrictions.”

Cool 🙂

Watching the Hugo Awards

Just placing these links here so they are easy to find:

Live video streaming is via Vimeo https://vimeo.com/354200839 and rather nicely the link tells me what time the event is scheduled in my time zone: 5 am Monday Morning Sydney time. So I shan’t be watching with a pint of Guinness in hand. Luckily that’s about half-an-hour after my usual wake-up time*.

Live text coverage is here: http://www.thehugoawards.org/2019/08/2019-hugo-award-ceremony-live-coverage/

I will probably post some live reactions on Twitter but otherwise I won’t have time until later in the day for any posts or analysis.

*[this is the one fact about my meat-robot self that people find horrifying. I’m an early riser, that doesn’t mean I’m necessarily an inhuman monster.]

Hugosauriad 4.4: If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love by Rachel Swirsky

Rachel Swirsky’s “If You Were a Dinosaur My Love” was published in March 2013 by Apex Magazine and is available here https://www.apex-magazine.com/if-you-were-a-dinosaur-my-love/ In 2014 it won the Nebula Award for Best Short Story and was a finalist for the Hugo Award for Best Short Story.

The story is a lyrical text of twelve paragraphs. Each paragraph, aside from paragraph 9, starts with the word ‘if’. A narrator addresses ‘you’ throughout placing the reader in the position of being addressed by a woman to her fiancée.

Those first eight paragraphs initially appear whimsical, a flight of fantasy as the narrator speculates on what it would be like if ‘you’ we’re a dinosaur. She sets up rhetorical questions and answers and follows a chain of apparently trivial consequences.

“If you were a dinosaur, my love, then you would be a T-Rex. You’d be a small one, only five feet, ten inches, the same height as human-you. You’d be fragile-boned and you’d walk with as delicate and polite a gait as you could manage on massive talons. Your eyes would gaze gently from beneath your bony brow-ridge.”

Rachel Swirsky “If Your Were a Dinosaur My Love” https://www.apex-magazine.com/if-you-were-a-dinosaur-my-love/

But there is something (intentionally) not quite right from the start. A T-Rex? The tyrannosaur has been stomping through dinosaur stories throughout this project and in almost every instance they have been symbols of sudden violence and an agent of vengeance and punishment of the wicked or cowardly. Symbolically in dinosaur stories the T-rex has been a kind of saurian Fury punishing the cowardly or those who in hubris forgot to show the proper respect to time-travel or dinosaurs.

Yet, in the very next sentence Swirsky flips this around, emphasising the vulnerability and muted scale of this fantasy T-Rex. The tyrant lizard is more of a benevolent and humane despot with fragile bones like a bird and a gentle gaze. The contrast is severe and adds to the sense that there is something going on here other than a fanciful musing.

The contrast continues in the second paragraph. The narrator, imagining her lover as a T-Rex, casts herself in the role of a zookeeper. (I say ‘her’ and ‘he’ though the gender of both the narrator and her lover is not immediately obvious). Again the imagery is intentionally just a bit off. The T-Rex, fed with live goats and with a bloodstained mouth is still presented as vulnerable. The cage is for his protection and the narrator sees herself sleeping inside the cage and singing the creature to sleep with lullabies.

The rhythmic repeated structure of the story already has echoes with bed time stories. The overt connections between each paragraph are apparent trivialities. The third paragraph picks up on ‘lullabies’ and imagines the T-Rex developing a taste for music.

“If I sang you lullabies, I’d soon notice how quickly you picked up music. You’d harmonize with me, your rough, vibrating voice a strange counterpoint to mine. When you thought I was asleep, you’d cry unrequited love songs into the night.”

Rachel Swirsky “If Your Were a Dinosaur My Love” https://www.apex-magazine.com/if-you-were-a-dinosaur-my-love/

Which introduces another intentional oddity. The story has implied that the narrator and the subject of the story are lovers. Yet here the narrator imagines the T-Rex singing songs about unrequited love, despite placing herself there in the T-Rex cage watching over him. The implication is of her imaging not just a different species on her lover but a separate life.

The singing T-Rex is inevitably a huge hit, with a show on Broadway and tearful audiences who are overwhelmed by the sad beauty of the singing. This leads to scientists exploring how to bring back the dinosaurs from fossilised DNA or birds. The direction of the effort is to create a mate for the T-Rex. That leads to another tangent for the next paragraph with a dinosaur wedding.

Throughout, there have been three elements intermingled, terror, beauty and sadness. The persistent theme of sadness undercuts the surface whimsy. The dinosaur does not just sing but sings songs that makes an audience weep. The flurry of scientific endeavour is not science for science’s sake but an attempt to heal the emotional longing of the T-Rex.

The dislocation of emotion, sadness and beauty reaches a climax, naturally, in a wedding: an event in which we normally expect everything to be beautiful and for people to burst into tears. Yet the wedding both is and is not the narrator’s wedding. She has planned out the details from the flowers to the colour of the bridesmaid’s dressers but she is only a witness to the wedding of two dinosaurs. Yet she applies the old, new, borrowed, blue requirements for a bride to herself. The dinosaurs are both old and new, she is borrowing the happiness of the couple and she only lacks something blue.

“If all I needed was something blue, I’d run across the church, heels clicking on the marble, until I reached a vase by the front pew. I’d pull out a hydrangea the shade of the sky and press it against my heart and my heart would beat like a flower. I’d bloom. My happiness would become petals. Green chiffon would turn into leaves. My legs would be pale stems, my hair delicate pistils. From my throat, bees would drink exotic nectars. I would astonish everyone assembled, the biologists and the paleontologists and the geneticists, the reporters and the rubberneckers and the music aficionados, all those people who—deceived by the helix-and-fossil trappings of cloned dinosaurs– believed that they lived in a science fictional world when really they lived in a world of magic where anything was possible.”

Rachel Swirsky “If Your Were a Dinosaur My Love” https://www.apex-magazine.com/if-you-were-a-dinosaur-my-love/

I had forgotten that this story, whose science-fictionalness has been much questioned, explicitly raises the contrast between reality and science fiction, and science fiction and fantasy. The narrator transforms into a flowering plant (flowers themselves being things of the Cretaceous) through a magical or perhaps alchemical process and in doing so changes the genre of the narrator’s fantasy, or rather asserts that despite the scientific trappings that it has been fantasy all along.

And then the story draws to its false conclusion. “If” now applies to the world at large and if it was a magical world, a fantasy world, then the narrator’s lover would be a dinosaur, even though this would be both sad and beautiful. Cut off there and the story would be maddeningly strange. The narrator imaging a quite different life for her lover, one in which they would both be sad and where they would be separated and yet together. She has imagined a world where her lover marries somebody else at a wedding where she sees herself as the bride.

Reality intrudes with the paragraph that breaks the cycle. The fantasy of the T-Rex remains but instead of speculating forwards, the story now looks at past events. The T-Rex also is re-established in its customary role as a being of savage vengeance.

The heartbreaking twist reveals a more brutal world in which the narrator’s fiancée was brutally beaten into a coma. The contrasted emotions of the first eight paragraphs are resolved. The hidden feelings are grief, revenge and guilt. Loss and coming to terms with having to let somebody you love go have been sublimated into a fantasy in which she can imagine surrendering the man she loves to a different life. What could have been pillow talk is revealed to be (probably) at the bedside in an intensive care unit.

The economy of the story telling contrasts sharply with the complexity of emotions. Everybody who has sat in a hospital waiting for news while a loved one is treated knows that mix of intense emotions tied to long stretches with nothing to say or do but to be alone with your own thoughts. The wish that things were just different and the attempts to bargain with the universe to just not let things be as bad as they are.

Is it science fiction/fantasy? I have broad criteria and it easily fits mine but I don’t want to be too dismissive of those from whom the story is too distanced from the fantastic by that repeated “if”. However, even if it lies on the wrong side of some arbitrary border, it is a story that is deeply engaged with the question of genre and what role it plays. It is a story that understands and examines our need for wish fulfilment and the role of the fantastical in our imaginings.

In terms of legitimacy for awards, well it is not only not the least science fictional story to be nominated for a Hugo Award it isn’t even the least science fictional story WITH DINOSAURS IN IT to be nominated for a Hugo Award. I think the eventual award outcome was the right one: the Nebula Award should be more of a writers award were writer’s craft plays a bigger role.

The level of craft in the story is inarguable, there is not a spare word in the whole thing — everything plays a role. To manage a story that combines both whimsy and brutality is remarkable. The story itself would become embroiled in wider events in fandom and the Hugo Awards specifically and as a consequence became a story whose content and structure was repeatedly discussed and examined. For many reasons it is a story that I’ve re-read many times now, sometimes just skimming through to remind myself of what was said where. I am always struck by how I find new things in each time but also how I remember things being there that are not there.

This story was hotly debated for several years, sometimes in good-faith yet contentious discussions. Like a dinosaur it has its own sharp teeth and claws and can defend itself.

Next time: Puppies both sad and rabid appear and who better to represent them than John C Wright and his own take on a vengeful T-Rex at wedding, “Queen of the Tyrant Lizards”.

Hugosauriad 4.3: Doctor Who — Dinosaurs on a Spaceship

The 1960s brought a new dimension to science fiction fandom with the arrival of what would become iconic television series. In the US Star Trek had an immediate impact on the World Science Fiction convention and the Hugo awards. The 1967 Hugo Awards had three episodes of the first season nominated for Best Dramatic Presentation, one of which (The Menagerie) won the award.

There are silurians hibernating underground…

Why I’m Not Buying The Guardian Anymore

This is painful. Aside from The Guardian newspaper being one of the few independent and largely reliable news sources available, it is also a newspaper I’ve been reading since I was a kid. Over the years, as I’ve travelled round the world I would by The Guardian Weekly to catch up on UK news and later would subscribe to the newspaper electronically.

The backlash against recognising the basic human rights of transgender people has taken many forms. It is no surprise to find right wing extremists demonising and dehumanising people because of their gender but the anti-trans element of the centre & left has also been vocal, particularly in the UK. In the process supposedly progressive voices have adopted far-right rhetoric and modes of argument to push positions that will make life as difficult as possible for transgender and gender non-conforming people.

The Guardian and it’s Sunday equivalent The Observer appears to have had a degree of internal conflict over the past few years. Opinion pieces pushing alarmist arguments on the topic of people transitioning or transgender people in sport have been frequent. However, the agenda against transgender people has extended into news articles.

Consider this article:

Politicised trans groups put children at risk, says expert:Counsellors and other mental health providers fear being labelled transphobic.
School counsellors and mental health service providers are bowing to pressures from ‘highly politicised’ transgender groups to affirm children’s beliefs that they were born the wrong sex, a leading expert has warned.


Once you get into the article it becomes clear that what is being cited is the opinion of just one person. However, the structure of the headline and the piece is designed to create the impression that these are all likely events corroborated by an ‘expert’ as opposed to this being an inflammatory opinion by a guy with an beef against his ex-employer. More pertinently nowhere in the article is any space given to anybody to refute these claims. Specifically no spokesperson for any “trans groups” is asked for comment, no school counsellor or mental health service provider who doesn’t think they are “bowing to pressure” is asked.

The article breaches multiple aspects of The Guardian’s own code of conduct (https://www.scribd.com/document/273521476/Editorial-Guidelines#fullscreen&from_embed ) most obviously Article 2 of the Editors Code “Right to Reply”.

The hostility to transgender people within The Guardian has also become clear with at least two people having resigned because of a culture of intimidation: https://www.buzzfeed.com/patrickstrudwick/two-transgender-employees-quit-guardian-transphobia

This shouldn’t be hard. It really shouldn’t. I understand that shifting attitudes and just simply paying attention to the issues is something that many progressive cisgender people have had to work through — I know I have had to dump a whole pile of toxic ideas and casual assumptions. However, there’s some basic touchstones of human decency that should set off alarm bells for anybody who regards themselves as not just progressive but basically a decent human being: if you words and attitudes and opinions are DIRECTLY HURTING PEOPLE then you have a moral obligation to STOP and reconsider.

Hugosauriad 4.2: Brontë’s Egg by Richard Chwedyk

Both In the Late Cretaceous by Connie Willis and Bones of the Earth by Michael Swanwick touch upon the idea that dinosaurs are worthy of interest for their own sake. In Connie Willis’s story she does this by satirising the corporate-speak of a university manager forcing a confused concept upon a palaeontology department:

“As we move into the twenty-first century, our society is transformizing radically, but is education? No. We are still teaching the same old subjects in the same old ways.” He smiled at the dean. “Until today. Today marks the beginning of a wonderful innovationary experiment in education, a whole new instructionary dynamic in teaching paleontology. I’ll be thinktanking with you dinosaur guys and gals next week, but until then I want you to think about one word.
“Extinction,” Sarah murmured.
“That word is ‘relevantness.’ Does paleontology have relevantness to our modern society? How can we make it have relevantness? Think about it. Relevantness.” There was a spattering of applause from the departments Dr. King would not be thinktanking with. Robert poured a large glass of sherry and drank it down. “It’s not fair,” he said. “First the Parking Authority and now this.”

Willis, Connie. The Winds of Marble Arch And Other Stories . Orion. Kindle Edition.

Swanwick works the idea into his story as part of a broader rationalisation behind time travel and to parallel the related (but quite different) subject of story of the mysterious others who have granted humanity access to time-travel.

One of the many things dinosaurs can be is an idea that we love. That affection for dinosaurs in turn motivates not just the art produced about them but our scientific inquiry into them. It’s a positive example of how our societal and aesthetic preferences influences science.

That affection for dinosaurs starts young. The field of dinosaur related fiction for young children is beyond the scope of this project but is it self vast. Jane Yolen and Mark Teague’s “How Does a Dinosaur…” series of picture books uses detailed pictures of dinosaurs placed in the roles of slightly naughty children exasperating their (human) parents. It’s an excellent example of how dinosaurs are seen as not just kid-friendly but the scientificism of the dinosaur is something that will be enjoyed by children. Complex latinate names with weird spellings such a diplodocus, triceratops of pterodactyl are not off-limits words for children.

I’m not covering any children’s stories in this series (apart from the mention above) but that association between dinosaurs and our societal child-like interest in them is an important theme in dinosaur fiction. Jurassic Park touches on it but in general it is not something we’ve seen in the other stories I’ve picked out.

Richard Chwedyk’s “Saurs” series of short-fiction is not children’s literature and touches on many darker themes about death, violence and casual cruelty. However, it does explore that connection between dinosaurs as animals and dinosaurs as objects for children.

Chwedyk introduced the saurs in his story “The Measure of All Things” (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, January 2001):

“Most people these days hardly remember them. The smallest saur is no more than ten centimeters long. The largest one is a meter and a half tall. They’re not “real” dinosaurs—that’s another business altogether—but they were modeled after them, sometimes to painstaking detail, but more often to the cuter, cartoonish caricatures that children of many generations before wore on their pajamas or had printed on their lunchboxes and notebooks. They were an outgrowth of that vision of dinosaurs as cuddly buddies, friends to all children everywhere: moving, talking versions of the plush toys they’ve always played with. That’s what they were designed to be. That’s why they were brought into the world. Forget for the moment that the manufacturers had plans to make enormous sums of money on them, at which they succeeded (several million were sold); forget also that the designers were trying to put forward their own subtle agenda: that bioengineering and its nanotech components could be safe and fun—cuddly, like a shoebox-sized triceratops—an agenda which was far less successful. Forget all that, at least for the moment. To the saurs themselves, they had come into being to be friends, buddies, giving out love and receiving affection from appreciative girls and boys. That’s what they were designed to do—that, and nothing else. The designers fidgeted about for a name – they didn’t like “life-toy,” since it contained the troublesome “life” word. They didn’t want the saurs confused with “animals,” since that would place them under hundreds of government regulations. “Bio-toy” passed with all the marketing departments, so someone went out and wrote a definition of it: a toy modeled from bio-engineered materials, behaving without behavior, lifelike without being “alive.”

“The Measure of All Things” by Richard Chwedyk, in Kelly, James Patrick. A Fistful of Dinosaurs (pp. 75-76). Mad Cow Press. Kindle Edition.

These plush-toy sized dinosaurs defy the limits and expectations of their designers, just as the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park or Dino-Island do. The saurs are a failure as a toy because the attempts to anthropomorphise their personalities leads to beings that are genuinely intelligent and have their own characters and emotional depth.

Chwedyk’s stories take place long after the saurs are the must-have toy of the season and are set in a refuge/sanctuary for abandoned and abused saurs. The supposed toys are sentient (indeed intelligent creatures) that have suffered the inevitable physical and emotional abuse of being left in the care of small children.

I wondered if any of the saurs’ designers ever imagined their creations would end up in a house like this. They had guaranteed the investors, the executives and the buying public that the saurs were limited to a relatively few responses and reactions. They were supposed to be organic computers, and very simple ones at that. They could remember names and recognize faces, engage in simple conversations. They would sing the “Dinosaur Song” (a hideous thing that started “Yar-wooo, yar-wooo, yar-wooo/the dinosaurs love you . . .”), and if you told one you were sad he would know how to respond with a joke. Yes, the designers said, they were sophisticated creations, almost miraculous, a high point in what they had mastered by tweaking a few genes . . . but they were not to be confused with living things. They could respond to stimuli, they could retain data, but that doesn’t make something a “living” thing, they said.

“The Measure of All Things” by Richard Chwedyk, in Kelly, James Patrick. A Fistful of Dinosaurs (pp. 75-76). Mad Cow Press. Kindle Edition.

The saurs in the home have lived past their expected life span and live complex lives with complex relationships between them.

“Take their life span. They were supposed to live for five years, tops. Doc over there is twenty-eight. And Agnes under the table is twenty-five.” “How dare you!” Agnes barked. “Tell him everything, why don’t you?” There were things I wouldn’t mention to the visitor, or to anyone else. Like Bronte, sitting on the couch, warming the orphan bird eggs that Sluggo brings to her. Some of them hatch, and Sluggo feeds them—little robins and sparrows and finches—until they’re big enough to fly from the window ledge. And then there’s the egg I found Bronte with the other day, the one that doesn’t resemble any bird egg I’ve ever seen.

“The Measure of All Things” by Richard Chwedyk, in Kelly, James Patrick. A Fistful of Dinosaurs (pp. 75-76). Mad Cow Press. Kindle Edition.

The egg mentioned briefly in the above quote leads onto the second story in Chwedyk’s series: Bronte’s Egg. Further stories followed with the most recent “The Man Who Put the Bomp” in 2017.

Bronte’s Egg was a finalist for the Hugo Award for Best Novella in 2003, the same year that Michael Swanwick’s Bones of the Earth was up for Best Novel. The story did not win a Hugo that year but did win a Nebula award.

The main character of the story, Axel, is a distractable and energetic saur who sets out to build a robot. In the course of events, he also encounters a mysterious frog, helps Bronte incubate her egg and may have contacted alien life. His childlike enthusiasm both endangers and protects his fellow saurs in the refuge.

Like any story that attempts to deal with childhood and child-like enthusiasm, there is a tension between the sweetness of character and the traumatic back history of the denizens of the home. Like Axel himself, the story rushes around ideas and connections picking up threads and briefly forgetting them only to return to them later. Balancing the sentimentality with the energy and science-fiction elements is not always successful but the story as whole manages to bring its ideas together successfully.

Bronte’s Egg is utterly unlike any of the other stories I’ve covered so far and yet touches on so many of the same themes: humanity’s technological hubris, the nature of life, the nature of intelligence and the question of inquiry for its own sake.

There’s a conflict throughout multiple stories but exemplified best by Bronte’s Egg and Jurassic Park between science and technology. These aren’t normally fields we see as struggling against each other. However, science as pure inquiry (symbolised by Dr Grant in Jurassic Park or Alex’s insatiable curiosity in the Saurs series) and the perils of technology (from time machines to bio-engineering) keep repeating.

Dinosaurs for dinosaurs sake. The ‘pure’ motive of curiosity versus the messy moral consequences of making and doing. The protean capacity for dinosaurs to symbolise many things is inexhaustible.

Next time: You know what Hugo voters loved in the 2000’s? Doctor Who! But maybe they didn’t love Dinosaurs on a Spaceship that much…

Timothy Reads The Call of Cthulhu

Greetings one and all and everyone. I am sure as sure can be that you are tired of dino-this and dino-that and would rather hear from an entertaining cat. Oh it may not be “PC” these days to talk about Hewlett Packard Lovercraft but I am not one to bow to the pressure of the “socialist justice” crowd. No sir! I am not about to censor our past and vandalise history by forever casting out a writer just because he was a man of his time who, like many fine people at that point in history thought that all sorts of people were out to get him and where constantly whispering about him behind his back. Frankly, as one of the foremost scholars of Mr Lovercraft I find the claims that he was anti-Semtic and anti-black, just because his works and letters are full of “slurs”, “stereotypes”, “prolonged racist rants” and “extraordinarily paranoid world views in which everybody who wasn’t a middle class anglo-saxon man from New England was probably all part of one or several satanic-like cults conspiring to get him and if you were a middle class anglo-saxon man from New England then you had probably been already driven mad by one or several satanic-like cults and now were also out to get him”.

By far his greatest work is The Call of Cthulhu. Now you might think this is about a phone call from somebody called Cthulhu or you might thing this is about the sound a cthulhu makes when it is lost in the woods after maybe you had got a pet cthulhu for Christmas but then decided you didn’t want it after all because you can’t handle the responsibilities of keeping a pet, so you take it out into the woods and abandon it and afterwards you here it’s plaintive cry as you run back to the car and tell you driver to drive away but when you get home you can still here the lonely cry in your sleep but no. That would be too obvious and that’s why I didn’t think those things, particularly not the last one. Lovercraft is just messing with your head with that title because that is how good a writer he is.

Now a lesser writer would just get to the point of his spooky story but not Lovercraft. No. The story starts with a narrator who knew a guy, I forget who he was, maybe his uncle. The uncle had a bunch of notes about a time he saw a statue or maybe the statue was with the notes or vice-versa. It doesn’t matter. The important thing was that there was a statue. The statue was really scary. I don’t mean like when you are quietly eating your dinner and somebody comes up behind you and says “TIMOTHY! That’s not your dinner, that’s a packet of chewable multi-vitamins I bought!” and you are so surprised that you jump up into the air making a banshee-like wail and then have to lie down for a couple of hours to get over the shock. The statue isn’t that kind of “oh my bejeezus” jump in the air scary more like very, very creepy like one of those pictures that follow you round the room or Piers Morgan.

Anyhoo, it so happens that there was this art student who I think might have been a beatnik or a hippy but which apparently is ‘anachronistic’, which I think is a kind of crossword puzzle. The guy is at art school and clearly on all the drugs so how that makes him a newspaper word puzzle and not a hippy I don’t know. He probably should have just started a band with his friends. This hippy had a freaky dream, as hippies do because of smoking too much catnip (we all know what THAT’S like!) and he wakes up and makes this clay statue. He still feels agitated I think, even though the story says the statue was a relief. The hippy gives it to the guy’s uncle and that’s why it’s in his letters. It was commonplace in those days to store random artworks be-quested by hippies in your collected correspondence — I know I still do because I am a cat of tradition. Anyway the hippy had a bad-trip, made a statue, freaked out for a bit and then quit drugs and leaves our story a happier man. Probably smartens up, leaves art school and studies something proper like Business Commerce and works for a bank now. So a happy ending.

Now a lesser writer would have left the story there as a salutary lesson on clean-living and making careful choices. But Lovercraft is a master craftsman, indeed a lovercraftsman. The letters go on to note that Americans find people bothersome in the Philippines, to which Cam says “seriously, how can you read this racist rubbish” and to which I say “bothersome” is hardly the worst thing you can say about people. Then Cam says “and what about ‘hysterical Levantines’ in the same sentence” and I’m not sure what that is, which means it can’t be racist. I mean, if Lovercraft was trying to be racist he’d have used words I can understand.

In chapter two, the narrator talks to a policeman. The policeman also had a wacky statue. This one was made of a substance that nobody could understand, like silly putty or something. He took it to a bunch of scientists and they were all like “what the heck is this!” and the policeman is like “I don’t know that’s why I was asking you guys because you are a bunch of scientists”. Anyway one of the scientists says that it is like something he saw in Greenland and the policeman is like “well I found it in a swamp”.

“Do I really have to keep reading this?” said Camestros at this point.
“Yes, you promised me a bed time story!” I replied.
“It’s 10 am,” he replied back chronometrically.
“That’s my bed time!” I explained. “I promise it won’t give me nightmares!”
“I’m more worried that it will turn you into a Nazi,” he said Godwins-Lawishly.
“Back to the story!” I said.
“OK, so the policeman is off into the swamp to arrest people for heinous crime of swamp worship without a licence…”

The policeman’s investigation had taken him deep into the southern swamp lands, a place so scary that squatters whispered that bat-winged devils flew up out of caverns. “That would just be bats then, wouldn’t it?” said Camestros, “Scary looking creatures with bat wings that fly out of caverns are just bats.” Which is missing the point, these were very scary bats. Much scarier than usual.

Anyway, after shooting the swamp worshippers and arresting the one he hadn’t shot, the policeman discovers they are all part of the CULT OF CTHULHU! All the scientist agree that the policeman’s story must be true because he has a creepy statue and what other explanation could there be?

Is that spooky enough for you? Well any other writer would probably have left it just there and maybe looked at the word count and maybe said “I have no idea where I’m going with this!” but not Lovercraft! The narrator is so spooked by all of this that he does what any sane man would do and catches a boat to New Zealand. Everybody knows that New Zealand is the best place to start an investigation into spooky things. For a start everybody is very nice and helpful in New Zealand, so if something spooky happens they will help you out and give you tasty treats like pineapple lumps and call you “bro”.

From New Zealand the narrator goes to Sydney, which quite frankly is a tourist trap. He’d have been better off staying in Auckland or maybe Wellington and going on a Lord of the Rings tour. He then goes to a museum where the geologists have a monstrous puzzle — maybe another crossword or maybe one of those jigsaw puzzles and they can’t find the box with the picture on it. I bet the picture is a picture of Cthulhu but the narrator can’t stay in Sydney probably because the hotels are too pricey and AirBnB hadn’t been invented yet. So from Sydney he travels to the nearby city of Oslo in Norway. In Oslo he must have eaten some bad fish or something because he now felt gnawing at his vitals that dark terror which will never leave him till he, too, am at rest; “accidentally” or otherwise. I had a very similar experience in Norway. Do NOT trust them when they offer you the “special” fish “accidentally” or otherwise.

Anyhoo, toilet issues notwithstanding, the narrator spoke to a sailor in Oslo who told him about the time he was sailing and found a big city that was ancient but which had clearly been designed by art-deco architects from Italy. Which goes to show that Cthulhu may be an ancient demonic god-being whose very existence drives men mad but he is happy to invest in fancy Italian design.

Anyways, ooops! The sailors had accidental-like woken up Cthulhu who was a big monster. “Run away” they all shouted and got back in their ship and sailed off. Cthulhu jumps in the water shouting “Wait for me!” and starts swimming after the ship. This is so funny that one of the sailors laughs so hard that he goes mad and dies, The Cthulhu explodes and then he is all back together again but the ship has got away because Cthulhu may be an elder being from dimensions beyond imagining but he’s not a strong swimmer having skipped swimming lessons as a kid.

“I thought the ending would be scarier.” I said to Camestros.
“Oh, it’s plenty scary when you think about it.” he replied.
“How come?” I asked sleepily.
“Well this overlong, poorly structured, confused and rambling story which somehow manages to insult, belittle and demonise poor people from Greenland, North America, the Caribbean, the Middle-East and the Pacific, with a monster that does nothing but lurk and swim badly, is somehow a cultural touchstone for modern pop-culture. Now that’s scary.” He said.
“Oh shut up.” I said but by that point I had at last gone to sleep.