RSS

Tag Archives: Lovecraft

Natural selection: Survival of the rudest

Humans may be the most evil animals on Earth, but raccoons surely are a close second.

Certainly they are the most inconsiderate animals on Earth.

Right bastards, they are, raccoons.

Whoa, Ian, what’s with the raccoon hate? What, you ask, have these cute, cuddly-looking little bandits ever done to you?

Plenty. They’ve had it in for me from day one, and you’re a naive fool to see them as anything but the thieving, conniving bastards that they are. To wit:

  • As a small child, a raccoon mauled our beloved family pet, a soft, cuddly, and thoroughly un-maul-worthy bunny rabbit.
  • Frequently while camping, raccoons have raided my campsite, stealing the heavy food I packed in. And, surprisingly, all the beer. Though I haven’t ruled out my campmates on that.
  • On one camping trip, the raccoons broke into my car and stole all the Blake Shelton CDs that somehow found themselves, against all odds, in my car. They left all the classical music CDs untouched.
  • A few months ago, a domestic dispute between two raccoons unfolded on my roof. Loudly. At two in the morning.
  • Regularly while driving at twilight, I see raccoons skulking about the street corner storm drains, a shifty glint in their eyes. Clearly up to no good.

As I said, the most inconsiderate animals on Earth.

Which brings to me last weekend, when they went from inconsiderate to just f*cking with me.

About six months ago, my beloved kiddos, playing in the backyard, decided that throwing toys on the roof and then asking big, gullible ol’ Daddy to get them was the bestest, funnest game in the world.

Teenage Mutant Smug Turtle, more like

This crime fighter doesn’t inspire confidence.

It took me about three rounds of this sport to catch on, at which point I flatly refused to go back up and fetch their latest volley, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle doll, a plush stuffed animal that shouted TMNT catchphrases when flung against hard surfaces.

Such as the ground and roofs with slate shingles.

So up it stayed on the roof, through sun and rain and wind. My refusal to recover it instantly converted this into their favorite toy. The kiddos still cry themselves to sleep at night, mourning the loss of that toy and cursing not just my name, but the date of my birth.

Which I find ironic, given if their curses against my birth had any weight or power, there would be no them to curse me.

Time travel has its paradoxes, and so too, it turns out, does black magic.

I’ve attempted to explain to them the dangerous lack of logic in such a curse, in case it turns out they do have magical powers, but apparently six-year olds aren’t that good at understanding where babies come from or how their Daddy’s genetics contributed greatly to who they are.

And as they are still six, I have no enthusiasm for the birds and the bees conversation yet because I know, when I make the Missus give it to them, I will bear the brunt of her irritation at making her do it.

So the kiddos, not understanding, just wail anew and spit at me.

Numbskulls.

(I will say, the spitting is an improvement over their pre-potty training days, when they found less pleasant things close at hand to fling at me when expressing their disdain.)

But speaking of bastards, back to the raccoons.

Last Sunday, I retired to bed early. I’d recently been tasked to hire an engineer at work, and the lovely recruiter scheduled an 8am phone screen with the latest candidate.

I am not a morning person. I have never been a morning person. If the sun wasn’t essential for all life on Earth, I would have it snuffed out just to sleep in an extra five minutes. This is how I feel about getting up early, let alone being well-rested when I rise.

So I not only had to be at work at the normal start time, but I had to be sharp and pleasant and ready to talk to potential talent.

Where_in_the_world_is_Agent_Carter

Greatest (British) American hero

Hence the retiring early, despite the Missus’ entreaties to finish watching Agent Carter with her on the DVR. I’d sat through the first hour, quite enjoying the episode, but it was one of those ‘two hour events’ networks often put on to generate excitement about a program, and I simply could not stay up another hour.

I left my poor Missus, wailing and gnashing her teeth at my absence from her side as she watched the second hour without me, and went to bed.

Except shortly after closing my eyes, I heard something in the crawlspace above my bed.

Well, possibly in the crawlspace. Or possibly on the roof.

It’s surprisingly hard to tell, when lying half-asleep in the dark, whether the thump thumps you hear above you are on the roof, in the crawlspace, or maybe the result of some Lovecraftian beast walking upside down on the ceiling directly above you.

I am not a morning person because the night terrors that arise from my twisted, dark imagination keep me up at night.

I am a morning person out of necessity.

I struggled awake. I threw on the lights. I reached for the cricket bat next to my bed.

Nothing on the ceiling, thank the Old Ones.

Still some thump thumps, though.

I went outside, still clutching that cricket bat, and checked the roof as best I could in my PJs, bare feet, and with no ladder.

Nothing, which told me a truly shifty bastard was at work.

Naturally, my thoughts went immediately to raccoons.

I went back to bed, light left on, and tried to doze off. All was silent and right with the world.

At first.

But then the thump thump again. Only this time, something new:

The Thing On The Roof (henceforth known as TTOTR): Thump Thump “Cowabunga!” Thump thump
Me: WFT?
TTOTR: Thump thump “Totally awesome, dudes!” Thump thump
Me: OMFG! The neighborhood teenage hooligans are playing on my roof, and they brought a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle doll with them! I mean action figure, I added, knowing they’d correct me as such had they heard my thoughts. Such are the teenage hooligans in my neighborhood – smug.
TTOTR: Thump thump “Cowabunga” thump thump I taunt you with my spooky ambiguity thump thump

I abandoned raccoons for teenage hooligans because come on, what raccoon plays with toys on a stranger’s roof in the middle of the night? It defies all logic.

I rose again from bed, blearly-eyed and more than a little put out. This time I went to the backyard, where a ladder leans against one wall of the house, left over from that game, many months ago, of Daddy Fetch From the Roof.

I climbed the ladder, and because I was tired and I couldn’t find a proper flashlight, used my cell phone for illumination.

Let me just say, when attempting to see something in the dark from far enough away that you have time to successfully climb down a ladder and flee in case said thing decides to charge you, a cell phone light is not sufficient.

This thought is the very one that went through my head as I alighted that ladder. It was not a comforting thought.

Made all the moreso by the fact that I couldn’t climb the ladder, hold my cell phone, and hold a cricket bat at the same time.

I felt naked.

Yes, my PJs are slight and flimsy (and mostly see-through), but I’ve never felt naked in them before.

Of course, I had forgotten all about the kiddos’ little game and the toy left up there as I ascended that ladder. I just knew that something very wrong was happening on my roof, and while I really, really had no desire to see what exactly that wrong was, the only way to get some sleep was to investigate.

I don’t do my best thinking when I’m tired.

Fortunately, in moving the ladder into position, I’d made a lot of grunting, groaning, and “Ow!”ing sounds. This, apparently, alerted the bastard raccoon on the roof that I was coming.

I was back to raccoons at this point because once my head cleared the eave and saw no living creature there, I knew only a raccoon could have slipped off so stealthily.

Almost like a ninja.

Teenage hooligans tend to make a lot more noise disembarking my roof in a hurry.

I speak from experience on that count…

The only thing to greet me, as I tottered on the top rung of my ladder, surveying my roof, was the now silent and dismembered TMNT doll.

This battle goes to you, raccoon, but the war goes on.

As is natural in these situations, I paused for a moment in order to tweet about it. I then scraped the remains off the roof, carried them into the kiddos’ room, and with a scream fit to reanimate a thoroughly dead-due-to-mauling toy, woke them so they might see the logical conclusion of fun had at Daddy’s expense.

I explained, as my father once explained to me while I lay sick in bed one morning, that a raccoon had mauled their precious, beloved companion.

There was much crying and wailing after this. Mostly from the Missus, who was not happy that I had awakened the kiddos in the middle of the night and distressed them so.

But they were out of school for the whole week and didn’t need to get up early like I did.

Why should I be the only one to suffer?

I am living proof that humans are the most evil animals on the planet. At least when they’re really, really tired.

No doubt the kiddos will carry on that tradition when, years from now and despite my protests to the contrary, they decide it’s time to unplug Daddy from life support.

Holy Disemboweled Ninja Turtles, Batman, the shingles on this roof look, well, OK, actually!

In case you thought I made this whole horrifying story up…


Yes, I’ve been away from this blog for a long time. It hasn’t just been raccoons depriving me of sleep and leaving me too stressed out and exhausted to post.
I had pretty much given up on life, and by extension, this blog, but then the raccoons came, and their outrageous disregard for common decency fired me up again. Gave me the will to live. Endowed within me a newfound zest for life (or at least revenge…).

 

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Diaper Noir: Pulp fiction’s dirty childhood secret

What the heck is diaper noir, you ask?

I stop and count to ten. I must remind myself that not everyone is as scholarly as me, not everyone has spent years in the dark, dank basements of long-closed and long-forgotten libraries, failed institutions that still have copies of the now nearly extinct works. I must remember that most people are victims of the cover-up, the dark conspiracy to hide the truth about noir’s origins.

So.

Diaper noir is the precursor to noir. An immature form of pulp fiction. And an important part of literary history. (Yes, noir is literary. If you don’t agree, you can sulk over in the Historical Romance section of your local Borders and stay there while the empty building is razed.)

The famous noir writers like Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler had to mature into the genre (Virginia Woolf also tried her hand at it, but her writing in the genre never matured beyond the embryonic stage). Before they cranked out those celebrated pulp fictions, they cut their teeth on diaper noir.

Properly known as petite noir (it was the pulp magazines like Black Diaper that popularized the more common name), the genre was not started by Hammett, Chandler, or their contemporaries. It was actually H.P. Lovecraft who started this genre, though he did not remain with it very long before moving into horror. Fortunately, Lovecraft’s bastard child was not left abandoned to cry alone in the night and slowly starve. Hammett and Chandler readily adopted the genre, making it their own and eventually growing it into the pulp fiction so recognizable today.

Critics and the buying public stayed away from le petite noir in droves, but I think the genre is worth revisiting, if not for the quality of the stories, then for the influence it had on le gran noir.

Still you ask, what is diaper noir? I have drifted into the history without delving into the actual mechanics of the genre. It is the noir we all know and love, but with toddlers and babies as characters instead of adults. Diaper-wearing sleuths, hence the moniker. It’s easy to scoff now, but without diaper noir, we would never have gotten Sam Spade or the Millenium Falcon or Ace Ventura.

In fact, Sam Spade’s first appearance was as a three-year old in Hammett’s novella, Toddler Trouble.  Who can forget that incredible opening?

It had been a long summer, the heat spilling over like my temper after mommy took away a favorite toy, and today promised more of the same. The fan wheezed overhead, pushing around the sticky air, thick like my favorite blanky, without providing any relief. I fumbled open my drawer, pulled out my bottle, took a hit. Burned going down. Whoever said warm milk goes down easy was a liar liar, pants on fire. Then I burped as she crawled in.

Couldn’t have been more than a week over eighteen months. Her diaper stank and she eyed my bottle. She looked hungry. Real hungry.

Hammett and Chandler, as evidenced by correspondence with friends, family, and each other, had a vicious rivalry going when it came to diaper noir, and were constantly trying to one-up each other. This resulted in a string of dark as a dirty nappy stories such as Terrible Twos, I’ll Nap When I’m Dead, The Poison Bottle, Buddy’s Feral Cat (the inspiration, incidentally, for Dr. Seuss’ “Cat in the Hat”), Dirt Nap, and Bad Baby, Bad!  Long forgotten now, but as the genre matured into the noir to come, with its adult characters but lighter themes, these ‘childish’ stories served as their templates.

But the undisputed father of diaper noir is H.P. Lovecraft, with his twisted short, The Nursery From the Shadows, followed shortly after by The Squid In the Crib.  Horrific mysteries that drove insane the handful of readers foolish enough to finish them. I can’t even provide an excerpt here, the contents are so dangerous in their non-Euclidean eldritchness. Which is a shame, because having read them, I can attest to their awesomeness.

So I urge you, the next time you pick up a Raymond Chandler or a Dashiell Hammett or an Erle Stanley Gardner or an L. Frank Baum, think about where they came from, what literary exercises and explorations spawned them. Think about diaper noir.

Does your library carry these titles? They’re worth a look (except for the Lovecraft stuff – just too dangerous, and I’m pretty sure the only copies are locked up in the Dark Arts research stacks at the Miskatonic University library, guarded by a very stern librarian with a Colt 1911 and a silencer (it is a library, after all)). If you can’t find them at your library, demand they get copies. Don’t let the librarians tell you there’s no such thing. If they’re saying that, they’re part of the conspiracy to bury this nascent work and it is your duty to stand at the circulation desk and scream at the top of your lungs for them to put these influential works back into circulation. Tell ’em ianmdudley sent you.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on 19 May 2011 in Noir, Other Blogs

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: