|H P Lovecraft Lovecraft, the Cthulhu Mythos, and writers who continued the tradition.|
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|24th September 2007, 01:17 PM||#1 (permalink)|
Join Date: Apr 2006
Lairs of the Hidden Gods
Two friends who went to the Worldcon in Japan this year brought me a four volume set of books filled with tales of the Cthulhu Mythos.
The stories are all by Japanese authors and have been translated into English by various people. There are several translators in each volume.
The books are all edited by Asamatsu Ken. There is a foreword by the editor and an introduction by Robert M. Price. There is also a small introduction to each tale by Price.
The first volume is entitled Night Voices, Night Journeys and contains 7 stories and one more that is an essay.
The first story entitled The Plague of St. James Infirmary is by Asamatsu Ken. The story takes Lumley's Cthaat Aquadingen and runs with it. Here Cthaat is a god of water and not a very benign one at that. Ranged against him is the Unaussprechlichen Kulten, which summons Cthugha and fire. On both sides are humans who serve these gods for riches or vengeance. Throw in a kidnapped maiden and the promise of a sacrifice bathed in blood and you have the whole story.
I liked the idea and the making of Cthaat a water god. After all Lumley never does explain what the word means. However, the story drags for having been directly translated. In my opinion it would have been better for having been read, understood and rewritten. Much works in the Asian languages that does not work in English. Many parts of the story drags on unnecessarily and thereby lessens the suspenseful build-up.
What I liked best was the involvement of Chicago's underworld and the possible explanation for the rise of Al Capone.
The next story entitled The Import Of Tremors is by Yamada Masaki and plays with the idea that our lives are really not in our hands. That we are all puppets on strings in a great cosmic play that cares not for us as individuals with personalities and hopes and dreams. All that matters is the big game itself. This tale attempts an explanation for many of the natural disasters to have hit Japan and seed for the destruction which grows and thrives inside humans. Now you know that the Fungi of Yuggoth travelled far into the East.
This story benefits from being much shorter than the previous one, although it too could have been tightened. The idea is a chilling one and fits in with the whole dark cosmic horror.
The next story entitled 27 May 1945 by Kamino Okina is similar in theme to the previous one. What if the great wars were proxies for the true war between cosmic entities? What if the real battle was between Cthulhu and Hastur and the armies of earth two sides of a huge chess board?
How far would you go to keep your Queen safe? Would you even understand that the seeds of this knowledge had been hidden in your genes down through the generations waiting for the time when it would be needed? Imagine living your whole life waiting, waiting .... and then dying and then your child waiting and the child after and the child after that .... waiting for your turn to be moved in the great game.
The next story is the title of the volume Night Voices, Night Journeys by Inoue Masahiko. The tale belongs very much in the realm of erotica but fits in well here nevertheless. It's told in the first person by a woman, whom as the story unfolds, you discover is amazingly lovely. A being all wish to possess and in that possession comes death. You learn also of her despair and her immortality and birth aeons ago in the blazing sands of Egypt.
The next story is entitled Sacrifice by Murata Motoi. For me this is a tale that went wrong. It has a very good premise. Secretive farmers with amazing crops that are grown in a special soil obtained from a cave in which there is a being as old as time. Every so often the soil runs out and sacrifice is offered. To this town come a man and his wife, fleeing the city for the healthier atmosphere of the countryside. The wife is ill and she gets involved with these farmers. She eats their produce, starts working with them and is somehow healed.
The soil runs out and a sacrifice is needed. And in this case, the sacrifice appears to be more than willing .... which is where things start going wrong in the telling, which is not helped by the meandering sentences.
This tale has got to be the most bizarre one in the book. It's called the Necrophallus by Makino Osamu. Here we have a protagonist who feels 'real' only when causing pain. It's taken him a while to get to being able to do this without causing death but here he is ... finally.
But here is the problem .... "is possible that tormentors and victims have the same eyes? Could it be possible that rather than to terrorise someone else, I need to become terrorised? Or are they the same thing? Are they the exact, completely interchangeable thing?
And one day his wish is granted in the shape of a girl with a dagger she calls the Necrophallus. A thing found in the vaults of a nameless, hidden city. It cuts through flesh and bone like so much butter ... bringing ecstasy beyond all description .... turning the one being cut into an exotic creature of splayed flesh and trailing innards and nerve endings.
Very odd, very, very bizarre but perfectly Japanese somehow.
The last tale entitled Love For Who Speaks by Shibata Yoshiki brings up back to that place beneath the waters where we will eventually return. It's about the call in blood and the children of the sea scattered on the land. It's about always coming home no matter what there is on the land and no matter how hard others strive to bind you to them on the land. The end is inevitable. And yes I liked this one, despite the lengthy prose. It talks about choices and the importance of actually coming out and saying some things out loud. The important things. The ones that make a difference to someone standing at a crossroads.
The final piece is an essay entitled Lovecraftian Landscapes - Four decades of H.P. Lovecraft and Manga by Yonezawa Yoshihiro. This might just be my favourite part of the book.
I found out that in 1965, the Shadow Over Innsmouth appeared twice in monthly manga magazines targeted at teenage boys: once in the form of an illustrated story, and again as a horror short. The two magazines were Bokura (Us) September 1964 and Mainichi Chugakusei Shimbun (Mainichi Jr. High News) August 4-11, 1968.
In 1959 it appeared as an illustrated tale entitled The Fishmen of Innsmouth illustrated by Sgogo Matsumiya and appeared as part of the featured article, The Greatest Horror Stories From Around The World, Illustrated in issue three of Ugoku Kao (Moving Face), the tabloid 'strictly for men,' originally published as an offshoot of the very popular 1950s erotic entertainment magazine Hyaku-man nin no Yoru (One Million Nights Of One Million People). The subtitle read, "Horrors! My face - it's become ... a frog!"
|24th September 2007, 05:35 PM||#2 (permalink)|
Join Date: May 2006
Re: Lairs of the Hidden Gods
LOL... Oh, that last line! Augie Derleth would either be tickled or appalled... and HPL would be thoroughly bemused....
I'm very curious about these tales, I must admit. I look forward to hearing your views on the other volumes... Thanks, Cat...
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