" It is new, indeed for I made it last night in a dream of strange cities: and dreams are older than brooding Tyre, or the
contemplative Sphinx, or garden-girdled Babylon" The Call of Cthulhu

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Litany of Earth by Ruthann Emrys

 The Litany of Earth by Ruthann Emrys full text at this link

Tor also offers original fiction including Ruthann Emrys brilliant "The Litany of Earth". Lovecraft’s novella The Shadow Over Innsmouth, has long been a fertile source for pastiche, with the Deep Ones and especially their hybrid offspring often little more than spies or brutal thugs in the service of the Cthulhu Mythos. Lovecraft himself seem conflicted about the nature of the inhabitants of Innsmouth on the one hand the group pursuing the narrator is described as a horrific inhuman mob,

“ a limitless stream - flopping, hopping, croaking, bleating - surging inhumanly through the spectral moonlight in a grotesque, malignant saraband of fantastic nightmare. And some of them had tall tiaras of that nameless whitish-gold metal ... and some were strangely robed ... and one, who led the way, was clad in a ghoulishly humped black coat and striped trousers, and had a man's felt hat perched on the shapeless thing that answered for a head.

I think their predominant colour was a greyish-green, though they had white bellies. They were mostly shiny and slippery, but the ridges of their backs were scaly. Their forms vaguely suggested the anthropoid, while their heads were the heads of fish, with prodigious bulging eyes that never closed. At the sides of their necks were palpitating gills, and their long paws were webbed. They hopped irregularly, sometimes on two legs and sometimes on four. I was somehow glad that they had no more than four limbs. Their croaking, baying voices, clearly used for articulate speech, held all the dark shades of expression which their staring faces lacked.”

from The Shadow Over Innsmouth

Yet having recognized his heritage and planning his return to the ruins of Innsmouth to joins his kinsmen, the narrator states, 

“Stupendous and unheard-of splendors await me below, and I shall seek them soon. Ia-R'lyehl Cihuiha flgagnl id Ia! No, I shall not shoot myself - I cannot be made to shoot myself!

I shall plan my cousin's escape from that Canton mad-house, and together we shall go to marvel- shadowed Innsmouth. We shall swim out to that brooding reef in the sea and dive down through black abysses to Cyclopean and many-columned Y'ha-nthlei, and in that lair of the Deep Ones we shall dwell amidst wonder and glory for ever.”

from The Shadow Over Innsmouth

so which is it. I want to look at two excellent stories that offer very different views of the Deep One/hybrids, the first being “The Litany of Earth” and the second in a separate post, “The Same Deep Waters As You” by Brian Hodge. 

How does an author undo the years of stereotypes concerning the Innsmouth folk. Emrys does it brilliantly through the use of sympathetic analogies. The main character Aphra Marsh was an child when the Federal Government carried off the inhabitants of Innsmouth killing her father and removing her mother to a separate facility. Those that were left spent decades alone in desert camps far from the sea, until needing the space the government used the same camps to house the Japanese American internees during the World War II. Aphra also mentions that inhabitants of the camp were punished for speaking R’lyehn, an experience similar to the real experience of the Native American children held in residential schools in Canada who were punished for speaking their native languages in an attempt at assimilation. These subtly drawn but not belaboured parallels really enrich the story and provide us with a alternative view of the Innsmouth culture to carry the rest of the story. 

Now released from the camp, Aphra lives in San Francisco with her adopted Japanese American family and works in a bookstore. The bookstore owner Charlie’s interest in the beliefs around the Aeonist canon and the fact that he has a room full of forbidden texts allows Aphra to instruct him and us in the whole history of the world as written by the Great Race of Yith, another lovely parallel to the great historic chronicles of the universe supplied by HPL in “At The Mountains of Madness” and “The Shadow Out of Time” Mercifully Emrys’s version is more concise than Howard’s and beautifully presented as a (true) child’s fable. Indeed Aphra life seems to be back on track until she is contacted by the FBI with a very strange request. To avoid spoiling the story I will stop here but another thing that drew me to “The Litany of Earth” was the beautiful writing. HPL was capable of some pedestrian prose especially in the conclusions to his stories but he was also capable of beautifully atmospheric passages just read the opening paragraphs of “The Picture in the House”, “The Colour Out of Space” or especially “The Call of Cthulhu" and this passage by Emrys to see what I mean.

“All of man’s other religions place him at the center of creation. But man is nothing—a fraction of the life that will walk the Earth. Earth is nothing—a tiny world that will die with its sun. The sun is one of trillions where life flowers, and wants to live, and dies. And between the suns is an endless vast darkness that dwarfs them, through which life can travel only by giving up that wanting, by losing itself. Even that darkness will eventually die. In such a universe, knowledge is the stub of a candle at dusk.”

from "The Litany of Earth" by Ruthann Emrys

Emrys is offering us a brilliant contribution to the Mythos to enjoy, please give it  a try.

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