mightyfastpig (mightyfastpig) wrote in circletpress,

  • Mood:

A guided tour of Whispers in Darkness, Pt. 1

These aren't reviews of the stories my fellow contributors wrote for this anthology, more my idiosyncratic commentary.

The Artist's Retreat, by Annabeth Leong
Of all the stories, this is the one that most successfully captures Lovecraft's mood and style and structure, so much that it borders on pastiche. It even has the Lovecraftian dyad of the paired protagonist, one hesitant, passive observer and one aggressive investigator, though with two women, and with the homoerotics elevated to the homosexual.

You hear stories about people who orgasm when they sneeze, or have fetishes that are so strong that the mere sight of the desired object brings them to arousal. Would such a condition remain pleasurable, or would it become a burden, or would it become some kind of addiction? It's suggested in "At the Mountains of Madness" that the Old Ones created the shoggoths as laborers and controlled them via mesmerism, and it's only a short step from that to telepathy, and the idea that a shoggoth would respond to human subconscious desires.
Sheik, by Angela Caperton
When reading anthologies like this, it's great to see people answer the book's requirements in original and unexpected ways. Drawing a parallel between Lovecraft's mysterious man from the East, Nyarlathotep, and Rudolph Valentino's Sheik in the silent film of the same name never would have occurred to me, but when I read this story, it made perfect sense. It even fits the inter-war period of Lovecraft's work.

Nowadays, when the sheik fantasy is a ludicrous cliche and Valentino is an anachronism, it's hard to understand the kind of impact Valentino had in his most famous role, how he inspired desire in millions of women and loathing in millions of men. He, and the book and movies he became entangled with, were in a complex web of race and gender and declining empires and, particularly in America, new immigrant populations and industrialization. Many of the same cultural anxieties that drove Lovecraft. See “Historicizing The Sheik: Comparisons of the British Novel and the American Film,” by Hsu-Ming Teo for a highly readable history of this phenomenon.

Valentino's sheik managed to have it both ways, to be as physically capable as a man but emotionally expressive as a woman, to be at home in the wilderness but to be poetic and civilized, to be a hybrid that some saw as revolting. This monstrous hybridity of Valentino was literalized in his character, an Englishman raised as an Arab, and even in his character's makeup: his face was lightened, but his hands and arms were darkened to maximize the contrast when he grasped his lily-white co-star. He had a white man's face and a black man's... appendages.

Linking in the silent film era, when it had become a mass media, fits with Lovecraft's theme of seeing and being influenced by what is seen. What would have happened if someone had caught a Mythos creature on film and millions saw it? Nyarlathotep is frightening enough when giving small exhibitions; what if he had harnessed the mass media?
Tags: erotica, peter tupper

  • Post a new comment


    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your IP address will be recorded