Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos by Bobby Derie review

    The peculiar cover of a tentacled monster (a shoggoth in human form?) flashing an old woman is misleading. This is not a funny book with a nudge-nudge tongue-in-cheek look at sexuality in the works of H.P. Lovecraft. Rather, this is a serious scholarly treatise on not only the works of HPL but also his primary Arkham House successors as well as large portions of media inspired by him.

    In some ways, Bobby Derie overreaches. At 314 pages, this work could have probably shaved off a hundred pages and been a tighter work focused purely on the works of Lovecraft as well as the adaptations of his work. While the material on Campbell, Derleth, and Price is fascinating, I can't help but think it was a case of trying to tackle too much in one volume.

    I think this should have been divided into two volumes at the very least with enough material for perhaps even a third to be discussed at length. As such, I think the subsequent authors had to be handled more swiftly than Lovecraft and it's to the book's deterrent.

    I was most looking forward to the section on Brian Lumley's handling of half-human hybrids and romance, for example, only to receive a two-paragraph statement by the author as to why he wasn't covering Lumley. Certainly, Alan Moore's Neonomicon and Providence could have had entire sections devoted to it by the serious Mythos scholar.

    Despite this, I cannot think of any work which is or is likely going to be more in-depth and illuminating in its discussion on the role of sex in H.P. Lovecraft's works. It covers everything from the slander and libel directed at Lovecraft to more misguided assumptions about his sexual habits in real life as well.

    This book addresses everything from the role of miscegenation, sexual congress with Outer Gods, the asexual nature of the majority of Lovecraft's protagonists, and the role of women in his books. These are the best elements of the book and ones which were worth the price of the book alone. Bobby Derie tackles the subject with judicious citations from Lovecraft's letters which provide the closest approximation to a Word of God on what the writer was really going for.

    I was particularly amused by the authors judicious attempt to try to treat the fact people have often use tentacles, sex, and Lovecraft together with as erudite a description as humanly possible. It's impressive that Bobby Derie manages to keep his scholarly factual tone throughout as some of the material he covers is absolutely ridiculous. That's the mark of a true scholar I suppose, though.

    The reading is perhaps a little dry in places but I, overall, enjoyed the work tremendously. I think those looking for a serious academic study of HPL's work should look to this as a definite analysis of a complicated subject. Those looking for a more laymen's write-up of the Cthulhu Mythos or something handling the subject in a more light and amusing way will be disappointed.

    But not by much.


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