Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Seeing an Old Favourite With Heterochrome Eyes

One of my favourite podcasts is the SFFaudio, which concerns science-fiction and fantasy fiction. The hosts are genial and knowledgeable, and often engage in digressions about politics and current events. They also have a really good collection of PDFs of old pulp magazine scans, which are catnip to nerdy fellows such as myself.

This week, the subject of the show was The Lurking Fear, a particularly lurid early work by H.P. Lovecraft. At its heart, the story is a morlock/CHUD/troglodyte tale, set in a rural Dutch-American community in the Catskill Mountains. The episode starts off with a dramatic reading of the story, followed up by a discussion, in which the hosts bring up some possibilities which I never considered, but (given HPL's obsession with the downfall of families) seem natural. To engage in somewhat of a SPOILER, they bring up the idea that the story covers much of the same ground as the better known, better regarded The Shadow Over Innsmouth. The website also displays the original illustrations of the tale from its publication in Home Brew magazine, illustrations rendered by 'Bastard fave Clark Ashton Smith.

The story itself is a fun, albeit gruesome, horror tale, featuring some of Lovecraft's must purple prose- especially in his descriptions of the vegetation growing in the low, rolling mountain setting. Like most Lovecraft tales, it's somewhat marred by Lovecraft's racism against, of all people, the Dutch. This has passed into trope status in the Tor Lovecraft reread, termed by Ruthanna Emrys and Anne M. Pillsworth as 'The Degenerate Dutch'. If you are at all a fan of subterranean anthropophage tales, give it a listen, and stick around for the commentary afterwards. I certainly looked at the story differently after listening to it, and I don't even have Martense eyes.

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