Boldly Going Places Man Was Not Meant to Know
Henry Farrell at Crooked Timber is on a re-interpretations of
Lovecraft kick, sparked by Charlie
Stross's A Colder
War (free on-line), described
by Teresa Nielsen Hayden as "the Oliver North/Guns for Hostages scandal, seen
from the viewpoint of a CIA bureaucrat, in a universe in which the entire
Cthulhu Mythos is real". (It's really good, and made me read Stross's
Sky, which is also really good.) Here are some brief notes on
science-fictional re-interpretations, based on what I wrote in the comments
thread on Henry's post.
None of these stories exactly re-use the specific characters and props from
Lovecraft, but are definitely variations on his theme, with ancient,
incomprehensibly alien Powers menacing humanity in more or less subtle ways.
None of them have any supernatural elements, but that just accords with S.
T. Joshi's interpretation of Lovecraft, which I pretty much buy.
- Vernor Vinge's A
Fire Upon the Deep. This the best take I've seen on the old "distributed
algorithm gone horrifyingly hay-wire" idea. (Or rather, it's a tie with
Clarke's "Dial F for
Frankenstein".) Some of the jokes will probably not be so funny to those
who don't remember Usenet, back when it was good for something. It's so well
known that further commentary on my part is superfluous.
- My favorites, at the moment, are Alastair Reynolds Revelation
Space and sequels (Chasm
Ark and Absolution
Gap; I'm saving the last for a rainy day so don't tell me about it).
These open with archaeologists excavating a city of the Old Ones and disturbing
(even) Elder Things. Reynolds gets bonus points for depicting various
fragments of humanity in the process of turning into Lovecraftian monstrosities
themselves. (Parts of of Revelation Space, in particular, are
filed in my mind under "Some of My Best Friends Are Monstrous Chimeras of
Tortured Flesh and Nanomechanical Viruses".) Plus, being an astrophysicist by
day, Reynolds does a very good job of keeping the science plausible, which
matters to me.
- Finally, Thomas Harlan's Wasteland
of Flint has a very similar theme to Reynolds's first book, where
the Lovecraft is hybridized with Carlos Castaneda. The latter is motivated by
an alternative history, pleasantly never fully spelled out, in which the Aztecs
conquered the world, with the Japanese as junior partners. This is
not hard SF, and there may be a bit too many of the usual space opera
props and properties for some tastes (Harlan is apparently a role-playing game
designer by profession). It's set more in the human world, and less in that of
implacable cosmic weirdness, than Reynolds. But it's still a tasty bit of
mind-candy, with some genuinely creepy and effective scenes. The
of Reeds, is fractionally less good, but amusingly transposes the
Hellenistic-era topography of what is now south-eastern Afghanistan and
north-western Pakistan (i.e. Gandara, Arachosia and
"India" around Taxila) onto an alien
Posted by crshalizi at October 03, 2004 08:55 | permanent link