The beauty of short stories is that I can briefly acquaint myself with an author without diving right away into a longer piece. Neil Gaiman has been popping up all over the place lately (most recently with Stardust going to cinemas this past summer) and so I wanted to see if I'd like his work.
Gaiman, in his wisdom, has a blog. Even better, he offers short stories. I chose to read "I Cthulhu" because I remembered the old Metallica song, "The Call of Ktulu" and since it was an instrumental, I had no idea what it was about. Now I know it was based on H. P. Lovecraft's short story, "The Call of Cthulhu," yet I still haven't read that one.
In retrospect, had I done my research ahead of time, I probably would have avoided "I Cthulhu". I'm not too keen on reading stories based on or inspired by other works that I'm not yet familiar with. This is the reason Reading Lolita in Tehran still sits unopened on my shelf. Fortunately, I enjoyed Gaiman's story despite of my lacking background.
The best part of this tale is the sense of humour. Cthulhu is some sort of alien monster who is dictating his autobiography to a human character named Whateley. As he recounts his tale he seems ignorant, or unconcerned, that what he's saying could be shocking. The result is passages like this:
...it was a real moon. On some nights it filled over half the sky and as it rose you could watch the crimson blood drip and trickle down its bloated face, staining it red, until at its height it bathed the swamps and towers in a gory dead red light.
Those were the days.
Sort of like Addams Family humour, only more sinister.
I also enjoyed the fun he had with the reader's ignorance, usually through Whateley. For example, "Now that is a stupid question, even for you Whateley. I don’t use either of my mouths in communicating with you, do I?" The assumption that these alien forms should be common knowledge makes for far more interesting reading than simply giving us all the "facts" ahead of time, yet he still manages to work in a great deal.
No doubt though, I would have liked it more had I preread Lovecraft's story. Still, I don't think it's a prerequisite in this case. It's like the Simpsons was in its hey-day; enjoyable even if you didn't get all the references, but better if you did.
I hope it suffices to say, it was enough to draw me in and convince me that I need to explore Neil Gaiman a little deeper. Perhaps I'll start with Fragile Things (reviewed so wonderfully by Stephanie).
(I'm again reminding my fellow bloggers that if you, too, write a short story post, please consider submitting the link to me at jmutford [at] hotmail [dot] com to use in my short story themed Bookworms Carnival coming up in November.
This month's carnival will be hosted by This Is The Life. Her theme is Thrills and Chills: Spooky Books that Keep You Up at Night. Send her your spooky book post link before October 12th.
Also find links to other Short Story Monday participants at Raidergirl's Adventure In Reading.)