Spoilers for a short story that is over a hundred years old. Why haven’t you read it yet? It’s free on the internet!

Dagon is one of the first stories H. P. Lovecraft wrote as an adult. It is both typical and atypical of his Horror work. Typical in that its protagonist goes where he shouldn’t and is driven to suicidal madness. Atypical because the protagonist is he really doesn’t deserve his fate, as he doesn’t seek out what he finds.

Quick summary:

It’s World War I and the Germans have captured the main character’s boat. Not wanting to be a prisoner of war he escapes in a life boat. After floating aimlessly for some time an underseas eruption hurls what passes for an island up from the ocean floor. This imprisons his boat, forcing him to explore his environment. In this exploration he not only discovers that there are titanic fish people in the world but also get to see one up close. His escape from the situation leaves him mad, and, believing himself pursued by the fish man, writes his tale down before the fish man comes for him and he’s forced to kill himself.

All of this, is told in the first person from our protagonist’s perspective. There is a very slight chance we can interpret the whole thing as the ravings of a mad man. The ending helps in this regard, as it’s hard to believe that a desperate man would keep writing as a titanic fish person fumbles open his apartment door.

Outside of the ending and the reoccurring problem that Lovecraft thinks his readers are as well read as he is, the story is pretty good. I’ve seen it compared a lot to Call of Cthulhu, but in fairness it’s not trying to lift the same weights Call is going for. It does it’s job. It may not be one of his bests, but it sure isn’t one of his worst. Especially worth considering is how early it is in his career.

Not a favorite, but I reread it now and then.

[THOUGHTS] Jokes Just For You

When trying to be funny, on line or in the really real world, you have to remember one thing: Some jokes are just funny to you.

Of course this holds true with a lot of things. Like Horror for instance. Some people are scared of spiders, some aren’t. Some are willing to believe in ghosts for a span, some won’t. You can’t make people feel the terror, you can only try.

Thing is, with Horror, there’s always going to be the other option. That it’s funny when it should be scary. That happens. You might not want it to happen, but it does happen.

Humor doesn’t have that fall back.

Bad humor kills. It even angers.

I have seen many a Comedies I didn’t get. Like Napoleon Dynamite. Well, fair’s fair, I haven’t watched the film, so I’m not speaking out of experience. But what little I’ve seen doesn’t encourage me to see more. I know people who love the film. Maybe I’m missing out.

I don’t think so.

Of late, though, more and more Comedies have been leaving me… irritated.

Family Guy, for instance. Once upon a time, I could watch full episodes of the series and enjoy it. Over time, however, I’ve gotten to the point where if every single main character in the show died of cancer, on fire, covered with bees, with sharp things jabbing under their fingernails I could get behind it. If there are decent characters on the show, they’re few and far between.

Thus I don’t watch the show.

But. I can still see how some people might like it.

I’ve watched small bits of certain episodes and said, “Hey! That’s funny. Be funnier if they all exploded in a ball of green flame, GREEN FLAME! Still, ha ha.”

I understand Family Guy‘s exisitance.

I don’t understand Velma‘s existence. At all.

This is a brand new cartoon that came out this year. Allegedly the “true story” behind the classic Scooby Doo series. Only everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY is to one degree or another a hateful, soul crushing monster.

Again, in fairness, I’ve not sat through a full episode. There may be some bon mot or sight gag I haven’t seen that’s simply hilarious.

What I have seen from clips makes me doubt it.

The main character, Velma, is Evil with a capital E. She is a narcissist who hurts everyone around her. The viewer’s supposed to root for her. Laugh at her antics, nod at every truth bomb she lays out, whether it’s a jab at white people or a stab at men, or whatever is the focus of her ire at the moment. And there seems to be a hell of a lot of ire.

None of these people are even remotely like the characters they’re stealing from.

Remember what I wished on the characters of Family Guy? Well that’s too good for the characters of Velma. They need to be…

Excuse me for a second.

Here it is.

“Hanging’s too good for ’em. Burning’s too good for ’em! They should be torn into little bitsy pieces and buried alive!”

Heavy Metal. Kinda

I’ll bet that the writers simply loved every word they wrote. Thought they had a modern classic on their hands. Trouble is that they were writing stuff only they found funny. And it shows. On Rotten Tomato Velma has a below 50% score with the critics, and around 6% with regular people.

That’s an epic failure right there.

[Poe] Some Musings Over a Container of Sherry

Spoilers for a short story published very nearly two hundred years ago.

When you are good at what you do, people talk about you. Edgar Allan Poe was very, very good. He even survived a character assassination early one. The man was a beast. And thus people talk.

Among his tales of cats and mad men there is one tale that stands above the rest: The Cask of Amontillado. In short, it’s a tale of revenge that still packs a wallop even even after over a century. The narrator, Montresor, lures back his prey, Fortunato, to a fate worse than mere murder. Bleak, dark, and not quite like anything else Poe ever wrote.

Now, again, when you’re good, people talk, and this story gets a lot of talk. Many make of the fact that Montresor never says why he does what he does, suggesting that he himself might be mad.

The thing is, this supposition isn’t supported in the narrative.

Before talking about this, one crucial fact must needs pointing out.. Consider the first paragraph of the story:

The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge. You, who so well know the nature of my soul, will not suppose, however, that I gave utterance to a threat. At length I would be avenged; this was a point definitively settled — but the very definitiveness with which it was resolved precluded the idea of risk. I must not only punish but punish with impunity. A wrong is unredressed when retribution overtakes its redresser. It is equally unredressed when the avenger fails to make himself felt as such to him who has done the wrong.

The Cask of Amontillado
Edgar Allan Poe

The Cask of Amontillado doesn’t have only two characters. Unlike The Black Cat and The Tell Tale Heart, the narrator isn’t speaking into the void to whoever will listen. Montresor is speaking to a very definite person. He has a very definite audience in mind. This person who knows so well the nature of Montresor’s soul.

Who is this person? As with so much of the story, it doesn’t matter. It could be a friend, a brother, a wife, a lover. Not important. What matters is this person’s existence in the story.

For simplification let’s call this person Grim.

The Cask of Amontillado
Bernie Wrightson

Poe’s big thing was precision. Every little bit plays on every other bit until he hits the mark he needs to hit. Which he was very good at doing.

Montresor never once expounds upon why he kills Fortunato to Grim. He expects Grim to know and understand at once. That is because he tells Grim exactly why he kills Fortunato.

Fortunato insulted him.

That’s it.

No great mystery to solve there. It could have been anything. Duels were more common back then, and they didn’t need that much of a reason for happening. Insults were the primary cause.

Fortunato’s reaction to his fate also points the way. Appaled by the act as he is, he never once asks the important question of why it’s happening to him.

That’s because he knows why.

Fortunato thought himself safe when his insult passed without action. Another factor is that, as Montresor tells Grim, Fortunato was “a man to be respected and even feared.” Someone that believed himself above reprisals.

Thus it’s very likely Montresor isn’t one of Poe’s mad men. He’s merely a very clever, very evil man.

Maybe that’s why, unlike with most Poe’s killers, Montersor gets away with it in the end.