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Cthulhu Sex # 17

Cthulhu Sex # 17
Cthulhu Sex
From the Cthulhu Sex web site:
"All submissions to Cthulhu Sex must contain a major thread of at least one of the three themes in the subtitle Blood, Sex and Tentacles. Most of our works are dark in tone, horrific in thought and streaked with eroticism. We are most interested in works that have an entertaining, motivated plot and evoke a charged atmosphere of terror and titillation. Catering to erotic horror readers, we look for horror with erotic influences as opposed to erotica with horrific influences. We don't publish stories that are based in glamorizing rape, hatred, racism, homophobia, child abuse or other degrading acts."

Cthulhu Sex

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Chris Przybyszewski

For those of us in the know, the Cthulhu is from H.P. Lovecraft's tale 'The Call of Cthulhu.' Cthulhu is a monstrous entity who lies 'dead but dreaming' in the city of R'lyeh, a place of non-Euclidean madness presently (and mercifully) sunken below the depths of the Pacific Ocean.

"Cthulhu appears in various monstrous and demonic forms in early myths of the human race. Racial memory preserves Him as humanity's most basic nightmare. Cthulhu is the high priest of the Great Old Ones, unnatural alien beings who ruled the Earth before humanity formed, worshiped as gods by some misguided people. It is said that They will return, causing worldwide insanity and mindless violence before finally displacing humanity forever."
If you didn't know, no worries. I had to look it up myself. Cthulhu Sex, the magazine, is an odd assortment of very short stories, poetry, and illustrations. The tone focuses on the odd, and the intention is to embrace a subculture while also repelling those not inside the culture. If there was a bit more of an emphasis on good writing and not on following the clichés of pulp fiction, writing, then Cthulhu Sex might have a workable plan of attack.

As it stands, the pieces collected in this edition are self indulgent and do little more than pat the writers on their collective backs while at the same time provide a minute or two of light reading. An example of the prose is Shikhar Dixit's "Lost Places." In it, the characters Witkin and Clifton find one of those hidden monsters that lurk in every neighborhood and in our nightmares. The attempt, I think, was to create a study about the inner journeys one must take, and the inner demons one must face. Humans have found most of the "monsters" on this earth, and so the last, great frontier on this planet is ourselves. Good stuff, and good for Dixit for showing spatial and temporal connections (i.e. right place, right time) are not the only connections that humans use. At the same time, the story is linear without a correspondingly linear character growth.

Man gets phone call, man meets friend at diner, man goes and finds monster with friend. This internal journey that is literally traveled in this world of the Cthulhu does not make itself evident on the page. The main character travels no distance in terms of personal growth, and his disinterest in facing the monster says nothing about him. Sure, it says he is disinterested in facing his monsters. Such a character makes for a poor main protagonist, through whom the reader is supposed to learn something new.

Also at issue is the voice of the work, which focuses too much on sounding like a horror story rather than being a horror story. In this example scene, the main character talks with his friend who will accompany him to the depths.

"He drops his face into charcoal-layered hands, shoulders heaving. Snot seeps from between his fingers. Muffled and mournful, 'There's no way out of this one, man.'"
Over-the-top descriptions abound from story beginning to story end. The silly exaggeration of physical appearances (i.e. the snot) distracts the reader from the character's distress. The use of the first person does not create the immediacy that it should create. Instead, it pushes the reader away from the story, it's speed and its unoriginal cadences lulling, instead of enthralling.

To contrast the weakness of the writing is the quality of the illustrations by Melissa Goldberg, Jarno Lahti, Bethalynne Bajema, and Elvi Athan. Each illustration carries an intimacy that pulls the viewer. In one illustration, "Lost," by Jarno Lahti, there is the text "Lost in a Dark World" that hangs over the picture of a man with empty eyes, but with a hopeful face that stares at nothing. At the bottom half of the picture is a hawk or a falcon in full flight, its wings spread to their fullest distance. Under the bird are a number of bare trees. There is a simple desperation in the face, while the dark shading of the piece underscores the 'Dark World" aspect of the text. At the same time, the bird flying over the confines of the forest either speaks to the dreams of the face or maybe the internal life of the person that soars high above the mundane life of this world.

I do wish that the illustrations were in color. The shading of each does a great deal to create depth and even a third dimensional quality. ("The Gate" by Bethalynne Bajema is a good example). Color would only add to the experience, though it might not outweigh the costs of printing. Also of interest, one wonders if this realm of horror might be best expressed by the strong imagery present in the illustrations, rather than the campy writing of the prose. Cthulhu Sex is supposed to be about "Blood, Sex, and Tentacles." You write a story that works with those requirements. It's a tall order.

Copyright © 2004 Chris Przybyszewski

Chris learned to read from books of fantasy and science fiction, in that order. And any time he can find a graphic novel that inspires, that's good too.

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