Author here once more, with a few final thoughts. First, thanks to everyone for the feedback, which has been more or less consistently positive. I'm glad everyone enjoyed it, especially since Lovecraftian fiction isn't something I'd ordinarily try my hand at. But when Norm contacts you out of the blue and offers you money to write a story, you say yes and worry about the details later. I'd been kicking around the idea of a couple of introverted rural types who have a vague idea that something has happened to the wider world, but lack the motivation to investigate, and this was an opportunity to flesh that out.
(I actually disobeyed Norm's guidelines for Lovecraft Month, which suggest Lovecraftian themes
rather than direct incorporation of elements from Lovecraft's work. Including the shoggoths was probably cheating a little. I admit I wondered whether such a direct allusion would make the story less accessible for audiences or readers who might be unfamiliar with Lovecraft. Ultimately, I figured that if "Shoggoths in Bloom" can win the Hugo, there's no point in someone as obscure as me worrying about the accessibility issue.)
. However deftly or clumsily I handled the tale, Norm's reading really brought it to life. He's got a fine ear for adapting things to the audio format, as we all know. For instance, he has Penrod address the narrator directly by his first name a lot more often than I did in my written manuscript (at least I think so; I haven't actually checked). This make sense; there are whole sections of nothing but unattributed dialogue, and it would be easy for a listener to get confused, especially with one narrator playing both parts. I was
a little surprised to hear Norm refer to the story as "southern Gothic," and was even more surprised at the accents he gave the characters. It wasn't how I imagined them sounding, but it definitely works. It's not unrealistic; there certainly are people in Pennsylvania who talk like that. We have all sorts of people here, occupying as we do a central position between the south, the Midwest, and New England (almost as if we were some sort of "keystone state.")
[However: that was "TSR." "TSR," Norm, not "TRS." Classic role-playing games, not classic computers.]
Thanks so much, Graeme; that really means a lot to me. Let me say in turn that I sorely miss your golden tones each week on Cast of Wonders
. (For those not in the know: Graeme resigned from his job narrating my stories at Cast of Wonders
and took a job rejecting them at PodCastle
. A lateral move, in my estimation; easier on the larynx, but harder on the karma.) I recommend his reading of my "Same-Day Delivery" when/if Cast of Wonders
gets their archives back up. Such is the power of Graeme's voice that, should I ever write another story about that character (a drug-smuggling wizard), he is now canonically Australian, as I cannot separate Graeme's interpretation from my own.
I do think that a logical, thoughtful Christian (or Catholic, anyway, which is all I can really speak for personally) could easily come to believe in multiple gods. (Many people seem to find the idea upsetting, if not blasphemous, especially if they can't tell the difference between "God" and "god," or between "belief" and "worship.") If one believes in angels (by which I mean powerful supernatural creatures, not the "recycled human souls" of It's a Wonderful Life
or Highway to Heaven
), it's not much of a leap to suggest that their fallen brethren might act as gods in order to stir up trouble on Earth (Baal, Moloch, etc.--I think Milton alludes to this possibility in Paradise Lost
I just saw a set of guidelines for a Lovecraftian anthology that described the milieu as "a functionally atheist universe." I'm not so sure. At any rate, I certainly didn't intend to suggest that the return of the Great Old Ones supplants the binary God/Satan model, or that Smith's Catholic faith is misplaced. Granted, the disappearance of the prayers from Smith's memory may be a sign of the Old Ones' total victory; but then, it might also be God forsaking him for succumbing to evil. I'm still not sure.
I have both The X Factor
and Virtual XI
(I'm a completist). They're not terrible; they're just not Maiden. Brave New World
was like putting on a favorite shirt.
I'm genuinely surprised that nobody has asked which female Supreme Court Justice I believe is secretly a minion of Cthulhu. (Answer: none in particular, I just thought it was amusing.)
Random glimpses of how the sausage is made:
- Although I have always managed to resist it, I'm often tempted to write myself into a story, including giving the character the same name as me. I very nearly did that here, until I thought of Penrod's "Obama-as-pen-name" joke, which requires an ordinary name in order to be funny, and thus Desmond made his exit and "Bob Smith" was born.
Old man Latshaw was originally meant to be alive, albeit housebound and dependent on the kindness of Bob Smith to bring him food, water, and firewood. He was going to pass away the same morning that Rich Hartzell departs Maple Hollow Road and Penrod arrives. As the nature of the fall of mankind (shoggoth invasion) and Smith and Hartzell's survival thereof (many many bullets, followed by amnesia) took shape, it was increasingly difficult to logically include an invalid in the action, so I gave up and bumped him off a year prior to the story. Strictly speaking, the old fellow should have been excised entirely for economy's sake, but I wanted to keep Hartzell's oxygen joke in there.
There were a lot of details that fell outside the scope of the story. A lot of Smith's day would be spent in the drudgery of stocking up on firewood (if he's smart). His plumbing no longer functions, but he's surely going to the bathroom somewhere. And we never really find out if what's happened in the US has happened all over the world. (It has; thus it seems likely that Penrod isn't as highly-placed in the cult's hierarchy as he wants Smith to believe--he's essentially the Mid-Atlantic Regional Marketing Manager). I bring up that last point in order to bring up this point: as I was writing, I realized that if this great river of humanity was just the stragglers, some of them might have come from as far away as New England, or even Canada. Hypnotized or not, nobody's surviving that march without sustenance. I tried to think of the weirdest way to resolve the issue--hence the shoggoth vomit. This is what we writers call "turning a problem into an opportunity." It seems to have worked; I got a lot of feedback on that detail.
Apologies for the verbosity. Norm knows all about it; he asked for a 4000-word story and I gave him 5500.