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Monday, November 5, 2018

Re the Bad Imitation Lovecraft Challenge



As of the Saturday deadline, we’d received six viable entries for the Bad Imitation Lovecraft challenge. Another entry was disqualified for exceeding the 100-word limit—by a factor of 40X, which in itself is impressive overachievement—and as for the Lovecraft limerick we received...

Moving right along, props to Robert Hobson for being the only contestant to correctly identify this kitchen utensil.

It is, of course, an eldritch cleaver. Sigh. There was a time when every socially conscious young radical was practically required to carry around a copy of Soul on Ice and be ready to quote from it on a moment’s notice. Sic transit, and all that.

Now, as for judging the challenge and determining who wins the $25 Amazon gift card: I’m going to take a step back and remind you that The Friday Challenge was an audience participation feature. A major point of the challenge was not merely to motivate people to write, but also to motivate them to read other people’s writing, and to discuss, critique, and comment upon each other’s work. I remain adamant in my belief that the way you become a better writer is not merely by doing lots of fantasizing and typing, but also by doing lots of reading, and by thinking about what you’ve read, and trying to ferret out what makes it good, and where it falls short.
And to make one more point clear: you need not have entered a challenge in order to comment on the entries. That’s the Writer’s Group fallacy. Sometimes the most valuable feedback of all comes from those who do not aspire to write, but only want to read.

Therefore, in the interests of stimulating discussion, and with the not-at-all-sub-rosa goal of deciding whether we want to bring The Friday Challenge back as a regular feature, I herewith present the entries we received, in LIFO order.



Title: Garden Shoggoth
Author: Gregg Chamberlain

With trembling tread, I made my way across the backyard to deal with—the Shoggoth in the Garden! Among the stricken strawberries it squatted, squalid and squamous, trickling eldritch ichor from obscene orifices. I stared for a moment then cast the sulphurous contents of my slingbag at the Shoggoth. Bursting buboes boiled up where the powder fell, giving rise to weirdly warbling wails. Sprays of scalding sputum spurted from slitted mouths, spewing against me. Leaving a slime-strewn trail in its wake, the Shoggoth squished and squelched through the breach in the fence, ululations of agony hovering in the still air.



Title: The Questioning Sanity of an Antiquarian Man
Author: Micah Castle

What happenstance occurred to the eldritch, nameless man with the Innsmouth look; did he evanesce into obscurity, traversing the cosmos to accompany those accursed Elder Gods; or had the hideous, amphibious creatures who dwelt in the sunken city Ry’leh reach beyond our terraqueous world and tear him away — it was not that his body had vanished, no; but that the congealing, ichorous blood remained on the cleaver… — Was I hallucinating or was the madness of preceding antiquarian excursions into the Miskatonic’s library taking a toll on my New England mind? — or was the horrifying, maddening, incomprehensible circumstance before me true?



(untitled)
Author: Rupert

The vast aboriginal beast emerged from the tenebrous subterane, It’s queer tetrapodean body compelling and repugnant in equal measure. Sighting me with sclerotic eyes it lurched forward on its hind quarters, its forelimbs gesturing self-referentially with fleshy pentacles, each tip sheathed in translucent chitin. It’s small head was pocked with crude sensory organs, it’s mouthless snout flaring above a nuclear orifice that gaped to reveal a yellowing potters-field of teeth circumferencing a garish red tentacle which writhed to articulate the damned name of its hideous breed: “Hyü-mārn”



(untitled)
Author: J. Rohr

Heading home merry-pin, feeling delira and excira yet destined for bed, I departed the gas lit cobblestone street for a benighted alley short cut. However, I seemed to continuously slow until a private fletcher's paradox rendered me immobile. Moonlight revealed nearly invisible strands binding me. Eying this webbing heavenward I gasped at the sight of a mammoth attercop, its fangs sunk into the flank of a celestial canine, sanguinolent ichor spilling onto me from the eldritch arachnid's maw. Tearing free, I raced to the Miskatonic dorms where some chuckled at my story, though Sirius is no longer in the sky.



Title: The Deliberate Work of the Generational Scrivener Richard Edwards
Author: C.S. Humble

Ponderously, Edwards shambled into shadows veiling the third chamber where his ancestors trod for a century and more. Their generational work, an enigmatic eldritch transliteration of nameless occult aesthetes, was his life. The name no longer alloyed him with familial grandeur. Only his work. The son of a cruel widower descended into the dripping tabernacle where a manuscript lay upon a black obelisk. The volume, forbadding decay, lay perfectly preserved, impossibly balanced on the stone. The scales of a maniac universe irrepressibly relying on transcription. Words unspeakable forbade the stars their alignment. So too, tonight, did Edwards faithfully transcribe, alone.



(untitled)
Author: Robert Hobson

I watched her approach, lest the cyclopean walls, built in some non-Euclidean manner, covered in a convulsion of brackish leafy vines, quivering stigma from purplish venous flowers leaked squalid globules of pus rattled my brain. Her squamous translucent skin, so translucent her green arteries and black veins pulsated across her vaguely human form; bulbous black eyes and hard lips, like a catfish with needle teeth, opened and closed synchronously; the stygian reek of her breath swarmed me as if I was swallowed up in some fetid grave. A bloody eldritch cleaver, spellbound to my hand, dripped oily blood.



Let the conversation begin.

8 comments:

Arisia said...

I read them all--with some difficulty, because they seemed to be written in a foreign language--but I really didn't know what to say about them. I read part of one Lovecraft book years ago and got out of it his way of trying to keep suspense going by constantly saying things would get worse soon. I don't remember much else, but I wasn't interested in reading more of his work.

My main problem with the challenge was that we were supposed to reward "bad Lovecraft." Is his only fault his vocabulary? If so, everyone did a great job. Some of the entries had no plot, and some had incomplete sentences and/or sentences that didn't make any sense. Is that "bad Lovecraft" or just bad writing?

Perhaps I am disqualified to comment on this challenge because of my lack of experience with the subject.

Unknown said...

The best of the works was by Mr. Humble, though I would take away points for his lack Lovecraftian verbiage.

This is the key to crafting a Lovecraftian pastiche. The sentences must be long with commas, colons, and semicolons with a hint of a hyphen now and then. Does it have to make absolute sense? Not really. Will you have to read it twice to grasp it? Of course, it's a Lovecraftian sentence.
I tried in vain to craft one complete, one hundred word sentence, but I just couldn't. Lovecraft's longest sentence came from "He" published by Wierd Tales in 1926, it was eighty-seven words long.
I do believe Micah Castle managed a sixty-seven-word sentence and had a few long words thrown in for good measure. My attempt was a meager fifty-two. The rest fell below the forty words range.
Lovecraft's writing was about the smallness of humanity when compared with the cosmos. Whether he meant to or not, he did this by throwing large words at the page and caused the reader to realize how small thier brains were. There have been very few authors who could make me feel small, challenge my mind enough that I would keep my laptop close by to find a word.

Unknown said...

Oh, by the way, Unknown is Robert Hobson. I just can't figure out why it doesn't, the website, recognize me.

David Gullen said...

Much is I empathised as a gardener with the brave hero in Gregg Chamberlain's 'Garden Shoggoth', it simply made too much sense to be bad. Even worse, C.S.Humble's 'The Deliberate Work...' was actually intriguing, made me want to read on and left me hoping for more.
My vote goes for Micah Castle's 'The Questioning Sanity...' which I not only found genuinely difficult to follow through its labyrinthine punctuation of semi-colons, m-dashes and elipsis some of which were actually ADJACENT but also while I read it found it had temporarily reduced my own SANITY and WILL to LIVE along with an increasing determination to eschew all punctuation forever.

Well done all. So very terribly good.

ellen said...

I also have never read lovecraftian, but was excited to read the entries to this contest, and laughed at the Garden Shoggoth. The others were a bit harder to get through, but it gave me a good understanding of what lovecraft is about!

And I think the friday challenge should definitely be brought back :)

Unknown said...

As a one-time practitioner of (unintentionally) bad Lovecraftiana, would have to go with "Garden
Shoggoth" by Gregg Chamberlain for sheer bad-Lovecraftian panache. It's also the most physically
revolting, for which I think HPL himself might have spared a shudder (he whom only an abiding disgust at seafood moved to profanity). And I loved/loathed the alliteration.

If I were choosing a second, I'd pick Robert Hobson, though his entry
was probably more sexual than the prudish Lovecraft would have
endorsed. The others all had their merits, though a couple of them feel a little too
close to serious Lovecraft to make it all the way into the Bad Lovecraft category.

Unknown said...

As a one-time practitioner of (unintentionally) bad Lovecraftiana, would have to go with "Garden
Shoggoth" by Gregg Chamberlain for sheer bad-Lovecraftian panache. It's also the most physically
revolting, for which I think HPL himself might have spared a shudder (he whom only an abiding disgust at seafood moved to profanity). And I loved/loathed the alliteration.

If I were choosing a second, I'd pick Robert Hobson, though his entry
was probably more sexual than the prudish Lovecraft would have
endorsed. The others all had their merits, though a couple of them feel a little too
close to serious Lovecraft to make it all the way into the Bad Lovecraft category.

p.s. I too am being plagued with the "Unknown" tag. This is Thomas R. Smith weighing in.

Mark Keigley said...

This wasn't an easy challenge for me to weigh in on, primarily because my nodding acquaintance With Lovecraft comes at a price of ALWAYS having to google the correct spelling for Cthulhu. So, I won't be judging the stories on whether or not they are good/bad bad/good Lovecraft but more from my gut. For me, "Garden
Shoggoth" by Gregg Chamberlain grabbed me the hardest. Perhaps it was the use of the s-silibants, but I suspect that the story had some emotional resonance for me because it made me think of garden slugs. yeah....those innocuous little slime-trail leavers. The ones we pour salt on and laugh maniacally as they bubble and ooze. Oh, am I the only one that does that? Anyway, garden slugs here in Hawaii are not so innocuous because some of them carry rat lung worm disease....not as bad as it sounds....just MUCH WORSE. Anyway, ALL the stories were great, Gregg's tipped it just slightly for the resonance for me.