(Originally published April 21, 2017 on peterndudar.wordpress.com)
Let’s talk about childhood terrors, shall we?
Let’s talk about deep-seated, scarring trauma in the form of bedtime stories. You know the ones that have been passed down from generation to generation, originally penned by people with frightening names like The Brothers Grimm or with pleasant, sanctified names like Hans Christian Anderson. They’re the bedtime stories with subversive messages about morality and judgment upon wicked children who didn’t listen to their mommies and daddies and do as they were told. It sure made an impression to hear the tale of Hansel and Gretel, the brother and sister whose daddy married an awful woman that convinced him to lead his children deep into the woods and leave them there when food became scarce. The siblings, of course, nearly met their fate at the hands of a witch who wanted to fatten them both up and eat them for dinner. Fortunately for the two, that tale managed to scrape up a happy ending, but Holy Moly, why would we tell that story to our sons and daughters?
Or the tale of Thumbelina, who was nearly forced to marry against her will? Or the Poor Little Match Girl, who froze to death after using up the matchsticks she was supposed to sell to keep warm? Or Little Snow White, whose stepmother wanted her murdered over vainglorious beauty? Or The Girl Without Hands? Or The Sandman?
The crucial element to nearly every one of these stories is that life’s dangers are very real and profoundly unjust in their severity. And in their own way, they are our introduction to mortality. After all, we’re not meant to live forever and perhaps the sooner we learn this valuable lesson, the more prepared we are for this callous, unforgiving world. Moreover, like I’ve suggested above, they are the hammer and chisel in our parental toolbox for shaping our children to be obedient and grateful. Our own mommies and daddies seem like saints compared to the often wicked matrons and feeble, spineless fathers in fairytales and nursery rhymes.
But hey, at least they’re honest. After all, a quick look through the local section of the newspaper is all the proof you need. Pinocchio rescuing Geppetto from the belly of the whale isn’t really that far off from a five-year-old dialing 911 when his mom accidentally overdoses on heroin. We see the archetype of parental redemption in all corners of literature, from The Odyssey to Star Wars. But when the archetype applies to life as we live it and understand it, it becomes abundantly clear which life lessons prepared us for what we’re dealing with.
Oh yeah, and then there’s the whole thing about “Happy Endings”. They do happen, from time to time, when the downtrodden damsel defies a wretched fate and marries the prince. Or when Pinocchio becomes a real little boy. Or when the peasant is rewarded for his kindness and falls into the realm of the “Happily-Ever-After”.
Enter H.P. Lovecraft.
Nearly two centuries after the passing of the Brothers Grimm, Howard Phillips Lovecraft made his own contribution to literature by creating a mythos of eldritch gods whose powers and sovereignty transcended the scope of time and space. Originally penned for early 20thcentury pulp magazines like Weird Tales, Lovecraft’s works sought to penetrate inexplicable horrors within the realm of the human psyche. Lovecraft’s world seems to also be defined by subversive moral lessons, pushing more towards obedience and reverence to science and rationalism rather than God and parents. In Lovecraft’s mythos, very rarely do we find happy endings. There are only unspeakable horrors that await us, and make us wish for death.
Which brings us here to the 21stCentury.
Crystal Lake Publishing is about to release a new anthology in May of 2017 titled TWICE UPON AN APOCOLYPSE. The book is a collection of tales in a universe where bedtime story Fairytales are married with the Mythos of H.P. Lovecraft. It seems like a very logical union, if one were to stop and ponder it…after all, the moral lessons have not changed over all the generations since mankind first started inventing fiction. There’s a painfully true proverb about mankind repeating history, and again, all the proof you need is right inside your newspaper. And as an author, it was a delight for me to dabble in a form of storytelling I’d never tried before. My tale for the book is titled “The Three Billy Goats Sotheth”, and it concerns an ancient troll who lives under a bridge in a world where horses and carts were replaced with cars and trucks; metal beasts that cared not if he tried to stop them from crossing. Of course, with the dawn of a Lovecraftian Armageddon sounding and the approach of the reawakened ancient ones, the troll seeks to reclaim his long-past sentry over humanity.
There are a lot of familiar fairytales in this collection. You’ll come across giants and beanstalks and mermaids and pipers and, most assuredly, Cthulhu,Yog, and all the other eldritch gods who’ve been slumbering since Lovecraft shook loose his mortal coil. You’ll also find very familiar writers within the horror genre: Armand Rosamilia, Bracken MacLeod, Don D’Ammassa, and Scott Goudsward, to name a few. These are today’s storytellers, who have not given in to genre-bending or “mash-up” hackwork but have used their craft to redefine the Fairytale in an homage to one of the founding fathers of horror fiction. It’s been an honor to be associated with this book, and even bigger honor to pass down a fairytale to my daughters. And perhaps one day they will pass it down to their children, so that I might embrace a moment of immortality in a “Happily-Ever-After” of my own.
I hope you will check out TWICE UPON AN APOCOLYPSE from Crystal Lake Publishing. I will post links as its release approaches.