mightyfastpig (mightyfastpig) wrote in circletpress,

Whispers in Darkness: author commentary for "Koenigsberg's Model"

Like a lot of my stories for Circlet, this is a bunch of unconnected ideas that coalesced around a single requirement.

My biggest creative debt, apart from old HP himself, is to Alan Moore's Neonomicon, illustrated by Jacen Burrows. It's a Lovecraft story set in an alternate present day, in which Mythos influences seep into the world via the subcultures of drugs, music and alternative sex. Like other authors, Moore took the idea that Lovecraft was a kind of visionary or prophet, but argues that what he perceived was filtered through his own racism and sexism.

So, if Lovecraft perceived the world beyond "through a glass darkly", what did he not see because of his own blinders? If Wind Done Gone tells the tale of Gone with the Wind from the perspective of Scarlet O'Hara's slave half-sister, the story that couldn't be told because of Margaret Mitchell's own blinders about the South and slavery, what is the story that couldn't be told about Lovecraft's vision?

Jozsef Koenigsberg is obviously based on comics great Jack Kirby. Like Lovecraft, Kirby was an American visionary artist, creating his own cosmology to express his ideas, but Kirby's universe is about the conflict of good and evil. It occurred to me that somebody with a more positivist outlook than Lovecraft could see the same thing, experience the same vision, and be inspired by it; is the universe half empty or half full?

Koenigsberg and his work is also based on Craig Yoe's book Secret Identity. Joe Shuster, best known as the co-creator of Superman, did a lot of work illustrating pulps and pre-Comics Code Authority comics under various pseudonyms, and he tended to recycle character designs. Yoe's book shows a bizarro parallel world with Clark Kent, Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen in dark tales of jealousy, addiction and exploitation. While I don't know if Kirby ever did porn under a pseudonym, there are plenty of artists and writers who discretely worked in pulp and porn, whether to pay the bills or to shock the bourgeoisie. So, if Lovecraft had written porn on the side (he probably could have used the money), what would it have looked like?

Lovecraft's bibliophilia and library of obscure, mind-altering books (not all of them made up) appealed to the historian in me. In my own historical research into pornography and sadomasochism, I sometimes encounter mentions of rare, old books that aren't scanned and online as yet. Mario Praz' The Romantic Agony is full of references to 19th century Decadents and the weird books they wrote, some of which were antecedants of Lovecraft himself. My own thrill at finding obscure, strange volumes in the "erotica" or "sexuality" sections of used bookstores informed this story, as well as my frustration at not finding certain books.

Incidentally, I just learned today that Pigafetta's Regnum Congo, mentioned in HPL's "The Picture in the House" and my own story, actually does exist. However, when Lovecraft wrote about it, he hadn't actually seen it, only heard and read about it, so the version in his story doesn't match up with the real thing. Thanks to the excellent HP Lovecraft literary podcast.

Lovecraft purists might object that "she" is explicitly linked to Shub-Niggurath, the fertility deity in the Old God pantheon, but acts in a manner more akin to Nyarlathotep: taking an active interest in humanity and mediating its initiation into a new realm. I'll plead guilty to that, although you could argue Shub-Niggurath is one of Nyarlathotep's many forms or aspects. I wanted to bring in the idea of the feminine, and the idea of Mitochondrial Eve, and to really crank the miscegenation up so far that it would totally blow Lovecraft's little cracker WASP Yankee puritan mind.

It's all about evolution, really. People were still grappling with Darwinism in Lovecraft's time. The idea of humans interbreeding with sub-human or non-human beings clearly terrified him. How would he react if he knew that humanity itself was born of interbreeding with somebody else, and had displaced an earlier species? This taps into some of the ongoing arguments about human evolution and whether humanity had interbred with other hominid species. Were the Deep One-human hybrids of Innsmouth (and presumably other coastal communities) our future, merging with the alien?

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