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CLASSIFICATION SAPPHIRE VORPAL JULIET POTUS EYES ONLY
January 12, 2010 4:14 AM   Subscribe

Inspired by Charles Stross' A Colder War and Atrocity Archives stories, noder The Custodian has written a series of fictional, Lovecraftian intelligence briefings entitled "The Benthic Wars": SPECWEAPS, DEEP BLACK, PRIOR TENANT, BENTHIC OUTREACH, PORTAL/ALEPH, VIOLET CAIN, SAKNUSSEM THUNDER and INDRA NEPTUNE. Meanwhile, others ponder the question: What if HP Lovecraft had co-invented C?
posted by Zarkonnen (107 comments total) 49 users marked this as a favorite

 
Clicked first 3 links. Still don't get it. Too demoralized to continue clicking. Sorry.
posted by Outlawyr at 4:49 AM on January 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


Exercise 4-12. Adapt the ideas of Cthulhu() to write a recursive version of the Forbidden Song of Hali; that is, to unravel the fibres of reality and allow the icy liquid darkness of Carcosa to devour your mind.

Excellent!
posted by I_pity_the_fool at 4:54 AM on January 12, 2010


I admit I've been a fan of this sort of Secret History* for some time. It is tricky to pull off, as it's sort of a genre joke that is predicated on a pretty decent knowledge of a few genres. If you've read Stross' Lovecraftian stuff, then you'll get it. If you've read a lot of Lovecraft Mythos stories AND a bunch of Cold War style spy thrillers, you'll get it too. I think the combination of Cold War Memo and Lovecraft Mythos is a pretty good mix. Given the format of many of Lovecraft's stories, accounting the weird dispassionately, like detailing an encounter with the unknowable via memo, is a good approach. The only thing the format lacks is the blow-off, the big finish at the end. Usually that can be dealt with via context or some note from another author tacked to the end ("This memo was written in blood on the walls of Col. Jenkins home. No sign of the Colonel has yet been discovered.")

*My current starting/stopping story is set in a world where Napoleon manages to locate some Rosetta Stone like object that contains The Incantation of Unlocking during his Egyptian Campaign. In theory, it's supposed to open the secrets of the universe/raise Atlantis/do other awesome stuff, but when he completes it with the help of the Knights Hospitalier he picked up in Malta, nothing happens. He tried it again, fueled by the bloodshed at the Siege of Jaffa and something happens. Magic/mana/essence/whatever starts to flow back into the world, fueling a slow rebirth of the mystical (like air slowly being pumped into an empty balloon). It's not enough to change his fate or the outcome of the Peninsular Wars, but over time it will be enough to influence later conflicts, such as the American Civil War when my story is set. We'll see if I ever get it all down, though, as coming up with characters that are not direct rippoffs of Richard Sharpe or Ibrahim Gaunt has proven pretty tricky.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:07 AM on January 12, 2010 [7 favorites]


I was never able to get into the Atrocity Archives, but "A Colder War" is a fantastic synthesis of lovecraftian horror and military potboiler. It underlined in big, bold colors the self-important idiocy of the Cold War and MAD, without being preachy, and without sacrificing the suspense and excitement of the story.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:14 AM on January 12, 2010


My eldritch twitches at these tantalising possibilities!
posted by turgid dahlia at 5:59 AM on January 12, 2010


This should be a good fix to keep me going until cstross' next Laundry novel. I own both "The Atrocity Archives" and "The Jennifer Morgue" in hardback and Kindle ebook, and bought two copies of the omnibus "On Her Majesty's Occult Service" - one for me, and one for a friend.
posted by mrbill at 6:09 AM on January 12, 2010


"...MAJESTIC Operative Karl Rove...". I KNEW it!
posted by bouvin at 6:16 AM on January 12, 2010


See also Brian Lumley's Necroscope books and (especially) anything by Tim Powers.
posted by Naberius at 6:31 AM on January 12, 2010


The biggest single threat to NATO may be the Shoggoth Gap.

This fanfic, it undulates.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:35 AM on January 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


Tim Powers.

Last call last call last call last call everyone go read last call asap omg.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:38 AM on January 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


That's MetaFilter's Own Charlie Stross. Just clarifying.
posted by contrarian at 6:42 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Declare by Tim Powers is an excellent work of eldritch spycraft.

I would also highly recommend the Delta Green RPG setting, though that requires being the kind of person who reads RPG materials for fun.
posted by Artw at 7:11 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the reminder - I keep forgetting that I have _Declare_ waiting for me on the Kindle.
posted by mrbill at 7:11 AM on January 12, 2010


Like, Slap*Happy, most of the Atrocity Archives didn't grab me (though I did enjoy the bit with the Jotun), but I very much enjoyed A Colder War. Looking forward to reading this.
posted by adamdschneider at 7:13 AM on January 12, 2010


anything by Tim Powers

Excepting, of course, the forthcoming movie Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides which is in theory based on Powers' book of the same name.

When I saw the first PotC, I thought it ripped off On Stranger Tides a whole lot, so color me surprised that Powers let his book get optioned for a sequel. Maybe there was some IP stuff involved in a 'don't sue us, here's some money without us admitted we did anything wrong' way?
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:16 AM on January 12, 2010


Seems to be something like that - good on him for getting something out of it.
posted by Artw at 7:20 AM on January 12, 2010


/slinks off to score some Tim Powers.
posted by Mister_A at 7:23 AM on January 12, 2010


Err, is there gibbering nameless horror and/or shrill demonic cacophonic piping at the very gates of madness in Tim Powers ouevre?
posted by Mister_A at 7:24 AM on January 12, 2010


Generally a bit more restrained than that.
posted by Artw at 7:27 AM on January 12, 2010


I want to read robocop_is_bleeding's story...
posted by Harald74 at 7:29 AM on January 12, 2010


Yes, Declare is an incredible example, and, man, Powers can write - his stuff tends to be much less dispassionate than the typical Secret History stuff, invoking the feeling of being caught up in unknowable events, and combining it with real history in a terrific way. That being said, Stross' stuff is just so much fun.

Also, if you like this sort of thing, you might like my previous post on Rossi's feverish conspiracies.
posted by blahblahblah at 7:29 AM on January 12, 2010


Well I'll give it a try anyway.
posted by Mister_A at 7:29 AM on January 12, 2010


What if HP Lovecraft had co-invented C?

We already know the answer to that one - Java.
posted by b1tr0t at 7:31 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Some Colder War background reading:

The Flying Crowbar
The Burgess Shale
posted by Artw at 7:31 AM on January 12, 2010


What if HP Lovecraft had co-invented C?

We already know the answer to that one - Java.
posted by b1tr0t at 10:31 AM on January 12 [+] [!]


Don't you mean Javascript? A strongly typed language doesn't really
scream, "Ia! IA! Cthulhu fhtagn" into my brain while debugging the way
Javascript or python does.
posted by bastionofsanity at 8:21 AM on January 12, 2010


Don't you mean Javascript?

No. CLC-INTERCAL.

The variable types are One spot (16 bits), Two Spot (32-bits), Tail (array of One Spots), Hybrid (array of Two Spots), Whirlpool (cannot contain any value), Splat (contains the code of the last error) and Crawling Horror (contains compilers).

I really don't think you need to know any more than that.
posted by eriko at 8:30 AM on January 12, 2010


I have yet to read the links, but a quick skim of the comments is already fattening my Amazon wish list.
posted by immlass at 8:45 AM on January 12, 2010


This definitely the sort of thing that Everything2 is best at. The Custodian in particular is a fantastic writer, and in the brief conversation we had a few months back, he talked a bit about getting some of his work dead-tree published... I'd pick up an anthology in a heartbeat.

The New York Magician in particular has an awesome fantasy mythos, and watching for updates has kept me coming back to E2 for years. The fact that it's written as a serial has given him enough time and perspective to really change where the narrative goes, and he episodically fills in backstory, (sometimes in response to other things that are happening site-wide) changing the chronology a bit but giving it great subtext.
posted by Mayor West at 9:01 AM on January 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Mayor West: The Custodian in particular is a fantastic writer, and in the brief conversation we had a few months back, he talked a bit about getting some of his work dead-tree published...

While I don't have a problem with fanfic, and I'm all in favour of encouraging new authors, I'd have a problem with for-profit publication of fanfic based on my work. My publishers — and I include in this category $ROLE_PLAYING_GAME_COMPANY and $FILM_STUDIO, both of whom have bought rights to the Laundry work — would have an even bigger problem. Indeed, most authors have a problem with other people writing stuff in their worlds without permission and publishing it for proft. It's the sort of thing that can turn nasty fast — especially if the publishers notice and point their lawyers at the problem. Worse: it sets authors at war with their fans, which is a total lose/lose situation for everyone. (Folks who write fanfic are generally your biggest fans. Suing them is so not a good idea.)

Luckily there are several solutions to the problem. If you want to publish fanfic based on someone else's work, you can start by filing off the identifying serial numbers; for example, if your boy-wizard hero isn't called Harry Potter and doesn't go to a school called Hogwarts, then you're not selling Harry Potter fanfic, you're selling wizard school stories. Or you can talk to the author directly about sharecropping their universe legally, or get them to put you in touch with the RPG company who're seeking authors to work on the project, or whatever. Or you can rely on the author turning a blind eye to it as long as you're not actually making a profit on the back of their work. (Hint: that would be me.)

Just try not to emulate this guy, m'kay?
posted by cstross at 9:36 AM on January 12, 2010 [9 favorites]


Who is the RPG company licensee (please, please be Delta Green)? Sadly, (or maybe not so sadly considering Hollywood movie-making---imagine: Charlie Sheen is Bob Howard, a man among geeks! and freaks!), movie rights often aren't exercised, but RPG (Delta Green? Please?) rights often are...
posted by bonehead at 9:52 AM on January 12, 2010


(or if not Delta Green, at least Chaosium?)
posted by bonehead at 9:53 AM on January 12, 2010


Charlie Sheen is Bob Howard

I'd imagine that Simon Pegg could do a better job, but would be interested in finding out who Mr. Stross has in mind when he writes stories with the character.
posted by mrbill at 9:56 AM on January 12, 2010


>Just try not to emulate this guy, m'kay?

You're saying a lexicon is no different than fanfic? Really?

*makes note*
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:56 AM on January 12, 2010


I actually acquired the Delta Green stuff recently after the Laundry books got me interested in the genre. I'm not a gamer, but I'll read the rulebooks for entertainment.
posted by mrbill at 9:58 AM on January 12, 2010


cstross: Presuming that you haven't read The Custodian's work (perhaps you did and your opinion differs), I would not classify it as fanfic. The only elements that are obviously of the same universe is the appellation LAUNDRY, which I'd say is more in the way of homage to an obvious literary antecedent rather than wholesale lifting.

And of course the entire idea of a Lovecraft/Cold War mashup, but that's not the sort of thing that can or should be protected.
posted by contrarian at 10:00 AM on January 12, 2010


Oh I agree with mrbill, I actually see someone who looks a lot like Simon Pegg when I think of Bob Howard.
posted by Mister_A at 10:04 AM on January 12, 2010


In my Stross fanfic homage rip-off, I've changed Bob Howard's name to the very generic Rob Halford, to avoid legal trouble.
posted by Mister_A at 10:07 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


This, of course, is my point. If Simon Pegg made the movies, they'd be brilliant. If Hollywood made the movie of the Atrocity Archives, Charlie Sheen would be "Bob", Morgan Fox would be Moe and McG would "direct" a "story" that more resembles a run though of a couple of Quake levels than anything else.
posted by bonehead at 10:09 AM on January 12, 2010


I'm as huge a fan of the Laundry series as any other Lovecraft quoting geek and want to be sure that MetaFilter's Own™ cstross gets well rewarded for his writing, but how do your example and the RDR Books case compare to The Wind Done Gone or Wicked (the licensing of which I am unsure)? It seems that there is (in the US) a 17 USC 107 fair use and parody argument to be made.
posted by autopilot at 10:11 AM on January 12, 2010


I tend to think Laurence Fox for Bob Howard, which is good as he's got the nerd cred of being married to Billie Piper.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 10:12 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


While I don't have a problem with fanfic, and I'm all in favour of encouraging new authors, I'd have a problem with for-profit publication of fanfic based on my work.

Sorry, I communicated that poorly: I messaged the guy fawning over his New York Magician stuff, and he replied that he'd hazily considered looking into having some of it published. To my knowledge, that isn't fan-fic or derivative of an established series. I don't think he has any designs on trying to profit from The Benthic Wars.
posted by Mayor West at 10:15 AM on January 12, 2010


For those of you saying you could never get into the Atrocity Archives, I really recommend giving it another go, only skip over the actual Atrocity Archive novel and start with The Concrete Jungle at the end of the book, and then move onto the Jennifer Morgue. The Atrocity Archive itself is (sorry Charles) not that great, and I could understand you getting discouraged by it, but the rest of the series is fantastic, and The Jennifer Morgue is particularly so, being a remarkably clever combination of a James Bond style spy story and the Cthulhu Mythos. It's definitely worth trying again.

Tim Powers Question: I picked up The Anubis Gates a couple years back and thought it dragged so much I never finished it. Does Tim Powers just not work for me, or are there other books of his I'd like more?
posted by Caduceus at 10:15 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I actually much preferred The Atrocity Archive to Jennifer Morgue, but thought that "A Colder War" was the best of the bunch. That said, I thoroughly enjoyed all of them; thanks Charlie! Write Toast 2 please!
posted by Mister_A at 10:19 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think the most accessible Powers is either The Stress of Her Regard or On Stranger Tides, but The Anubis Gates isn't significantly harder to get into than either of those. Declare is a bit of a style change for Powers, though. If you bounced off his earlier work, Declare might work for you, particularly if you like Len Deighton or Graham Greene's noirs.
posted by bonehead at 10:22 AM on January 12, 2010


Oh, well, maybe I shouldn't pass my dumb opinions off as fact. How about this: the tone and style shift some after The Atrocity Archive, making the rest of the series significantly more enjoyable for me, which leads me to believe that people who couldn't get into The Atrocity Archive still might enjoy the rest of the series.
posted by Caduceus at 10:24 AM on January 12, 2010


Caduceus: "
Tim Powers Question: I picked up The Anubis Gates a couple years back and thought it dragged so much I never finished it. Does Tim Powers just not work for me, or are there other books of his I'd like more?
"

Of the subset of Powers that I've read, I'd rank The Anubis Gates as the weakest. I'll support prior recommendations for Declare, I really dug that one.
posted by Drastic at 10:26 AM on January 12, 2010


Theres actually a second Stross short story anthogy now: Wireless, which includes A Colder War but doesn't have any other overlap with Toast that I know of. It also includes Missile Gap, which isn't explicitly lovecraftian but does seem like a nice complement to Colder War, and has Yuri Gagarin captaining a huge Ekranoplan.
posted by Artw at 10:27 AM on January 12, 2010


bonehead: I can't talk about the RPG at this time. Hopefully, later this year ...

Mayor West: that's great; I hope he does well with it.

ChurchillHatesTucker: the devil is in the detail — JKR's lawyers didn't go after the lexicon, they went after the guy who tried to monetize it, in book form, and quoted great big fat chunks of her novels without permission.

autopilot: the field of fair use, parody, plagiarism, and passing off is gnarly, vast, and deep ... and I'd much rather leave it alone. The only folks who benefit from it are lawyers and large media conglomerates — not fans or authors.
posted by cstross at 10:29 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Declare is a bit of a stand alone thing, and doesn't seem much like other Powers I've read. Last Call would seem like the best place to start with his other stuff.

Also, back to RPGs, Unknown Armies is a really awesome setting which uses a system of magic that is very Last Call-like, by the people behind Delta Green.
posted by Artw at 10:30 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I liked the Atrocity Archive. I kind of thought it had the same problem all the Mythos books where humanity can win do though. If a group of people can stop the GOO, wouldn't you be morally obligated to let everyone know they exist? It wouldn't increase proliferation, because most people aren't going to want to summon an unknowable entity that would eat them. The people that are likely to do that are going to try to do it anyway. It would certainly make the world safer if say you could just go on TV say "Country X has violated treaty Y and consequently we nuked them to prevent face eating horrors from beyond. Thanks." I mean you'd have to worry about misuse, but you'd be significantly less likely to abuse that sort of power with the whole world looking over your shoulder. Open source that information, to keep everyone safe from it.
posted by Peztopiary at 10:34 AM on January 12, 2010


Good call Artw, Last Call is one of the strongest he's written. The sequels, unfortunately, aren't.
posted by bonehead at 10:35 AM on January 12, 2010


Thanks Art! I'll get Wireless first chance I get.
posted by Mister_A at 10:35 AM on January 12, 2010


You're saying a lexicon is no different than fanfic? Really?

Both are derivative works. The only difference between this case and general fanfic is that this case tried to publish for sale.

I think the real reason Charlie mentioned that case is that a film studio has bought the rights to at least one of the Laundryverse works, and they're much more likely to see fanfic in an infringing light -- and to take action if they do.

Note how he explicitly mentions publishers suing. The author may not even get a voice in the matter -- the publisher holds the rights, if they think it's infringement and take action, there's little the author can do.

The only elements that are obviously of the same universe is the appellation LAUNDRY, which I'd say is more in the way of homage to an obvious literary antecedent rather than wholesale lifting.

Tough call. "DEEP BLACK" was used in The Jennifer Morgue as a reference to the Black Chamber, both DEEP BLACK and the Black Chamber use particular servitors to control members, and the subject matter is close enough that derivation is easily established. As Charlie mentioned, way #1 to do this is to file off the serial numbers. Use DOE and MI-9 rather than DEEP BLACK and the Laundry, and then you're just writing a techno-horror piece.

Obviously, I could be wrong -- it's a court call, but to me, it's pretty clearly Laundryverse. Also, this clearly isn't parody, so I doubt that fair-use defense would stand -- general transformative work would be a better defense.

Authors, however, typically do everything they can to avoid reading fanfic, because they don't want the possibility of stealing ideas -- even unconsciously. By explicitly not reading fanfic, if they happen to come up with the same idea, it's just coincidence (or a very obvious idea,) not theft of someone else's work. Charlie may be different, but as a class -- and I know a number of them -- they shy away from fanfic for both themselves and the fans' sake.
posted by eriko at 10:36 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


(I'll be visiting Vegas for the first time in March, for MIX, I shoudl look into Last Call related sight seeing. I suspect there isn't that much to see though, and I may not end up having much time.)
posted by Artw at 10:45 AM on January 12, 2010


So this word "noder"–how long has this been around?
posted by Mister_A at 10:52 AM on January 12, 2010


>...the devil is in the detail — JKR's lawyers didn't go after the lexicon, they went after the guy who tried to monetize it, in book form, and quoted great big fat chunks of her novels without permission.

But it's not a competing work (unless you buy JKR's claim that her (potential) future work has priority,) and it's certainly not plagiarism, so what is the complaint?

As far as I can tell, the ultimate resolution had the effect of hampering the accuracy of the lexicon by forcing it to use paraphrases. Great if you're JKR and plan to get around to writing your own some day, but not so great if you're pretty much anyone else.

You're kind of blowing my mind here. Do you have a problem with concordances? They cover ALL the words.

>Both are derivative works. The only difference between this case and general fanfic is that this case tried to publish for sale.

So are reviews, which are often published for sale.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:54 AM on January 12, 2010


I liked the Atrocity Archive. I kind of thought it had the same problem all the Mythos books where humanity can win do though. If a group of people can stop the GOO, wouldn't you be morally obligated to let everyone know they exist? It wouldn't increase proliferation, because most people aren't going to want to summon an unknowable entity that would eat them. The people that are likely to do that are going to try to do it anyway. It would certainly make the world safer if say you could just go on TV say "Country X has violated treaty Y and consequently we nuked them to prevent face eating horrors from beyond. Thanks." I mean you'd have to worry about misuse, but you'd be significantly less likely to abuse that sort of power with the whole world looking over your shoulder. Open source that information, to keep everyone safe from it.

I'd have to disagree. Problem the first is that anyone messing with stuff they're not properly prepared for can open themselves up to possession, which can cause all kinds of problems. Problem the second is that most people aren't going to want to shoot up a school or a college campus and then kill themselves, either, but enough of them do it without anyone being able to notice ahead of time that it would be a really bad idea to let them know that it is possible to summon monsters that can cause far more devastation than any gun or bomb they might be able to get a hold on could. Making the knowledge of the Mythos public would basically require setting up a super tightly run police state until the end of time, because if you miss one crazy, it's pretty much the end of everything. After all, that group of people is stopping the eldritch horrors from ever fully waking up or getting in; there's not much they can do once the things get going.
posted by Caduceus at 11:00 AM on January 12, 2010


The thing is though that we're already living in that super tightly run police state in the Mythos government fiction only we don't know it. Horrible event X was necessary to prevent even more horrible event Y. Iraq War? Shoggoth Prevention. Super Bowl Sniping? Dude was about to read the P'knatok manuscript on air! Project Basilisk keeps us safe from Delta Green etc. etc. It's the exact same deal, only now it is in the hands of fewer people. The fewer people who have access to that data the more dangerous it is when one of them goes rogue. They will go rogue too, since this is the Mythos. It isn't justifiable from a game theory standpoint. More eyes means more people to spot the problem.
posted by Peztopiary at 11:08 AM on January 12, 2010


Isn't this the argument for why The Dunwich Horror sucks by S.T. Joshi, on the grounds that the good guys win?

Overtime, the laundry story that Tor.com ran for Christmas, has more of an explanation as to what CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN and the Stars Being Right actually entail, and how that might limit long term good-guy winnage.
posted by Artw at 11:10 AM on January 12, 2010


And, with respect to the deep darkness that hungers at the bottom of the copyright arguments, what is the difference between fanfic and The Wind Done Gone? Both are derivative works of copyrighted works, both reuse characters, scenes and settings. The only difference that I can see is that one of them was sold commercially and had a team of lawyers to defend it.
posted by autopilot at 11:20 AM on January 12, 2010


Artw: In the Laundry continuity, "Overtime" is set about six months after "The Fuller Memorandum", which gives much more of an overview.

Quite possibly, nobody's getting out of that grim meathook future alive; even if they do, it may not be with sanity intact.

(Expect a somewhat grimmer read than the last two novels ...)
posted by cstross at 11:22 AM on January 12, 2010


I like grim.
posted by Mister_A at 11:29 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


So the question that's on all our minds:

Cthulhu vs Superman: who wins?
posted by Mister_A at 11:32 AM on January 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


I had hoped to like them more than I did but they were a bit too much like reading RPG handouts from a Laundry game.

I like much about the Laundry series, reminds me in many ways of my own job, but I cannot help but wish that yer man heeded William Faulkner's sage advice.

Declare is a stone cold classic. I would love to see the BBC do a Smiley's People style adaptation but it will never be :(
posted by fallingbadgers at 11:32 AM on January 12, 2010


Cthulhu vs Superman: who wins?

Well, according to JLA:Unlimited, Solomun Grundy PUNCHES CTHULHU IN THE BRAIN.
posted by Artw at 11:34 AM on January 12, 2010


>Cthulhu vs Superman: who wins?

Lovecraft is largely out of copyright, so DC and the Siegels.

Otherwise, the lawyers.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:45 AM on January 12, 2010


Well, according to JLA:Unlimited, Solomun Grundy PUNCHES CTHULHU IN THE BRAIN.

wut
posted by Caduceus at 11:52 AM on January 12, 2010


I'm not saying that the good guys winning is a bad thing. I'm saying in a situation where the good guys can win the thing to do is increase the pool of good guys. Certainly you increase the pool of bad guys, but it's a much smaller gain. Larger pool of good guys equals greater chance at stopping the few bad apples who do decide that face eaters are the way to go. The bad guys aren't helped as much because while technically a win for one of them is a win for all of them they tend to see it in terms of which specific Old One they serve. Cthulthu cultists are not going to stand side by side with Hasturians against the Government forces because while both cults are guaranteed to win, when the Stars align/The clock runs out, at least from their perspective it's a matter of who comes in first.
posted by Peztopiary at 11:54 AM on January 12, 2010


Cthulhu vs Superman: who wins?

Depends on your interpretation of Cthulhu (The more Derleth you go, the more mystical squidface gets, which exacerbates one of Supes' weaknesses) and which era Superman shows up to the fight.

I would pay cash money for a Silver Age Superman fighting Cthulhu and eventually defeating the Great Old One through a clever combination of super-ventriloquism and super-weaving.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:55 AM on January 12, 2010


Well, according to JLA:Unlimited, Solomun Grundy PUNCHES CTHULHU IN THE BRAIN.

wut


The Terror Beyond
posted by Artw at 11:56 AM on January 12, 2010


Grant Morrison's first stab at superhero writing, Zenith, had some awesome superheropes versus Great Old Ones action. Unfortunately asides from some Titan volumes in the 80s it's not been reprinted due to disputes over, um, who actually owns the thing.
posted by Artw at 12:00 PM on January 12, 2010




But it's not a competing work (unless you buy JKR's claim that her (potential) future work has priority,) and it's certainly not plagiarism, so what is the complaint?

As far as I can tell, the ultimate resolution had the effect of hampering the accuracy of the lexicon by forcing it to use paraphrases. Great if you're JKR and plan to get around to writing your own some day, but not so great if you're pretty much anyone else.

You're kind of blowing my mind here. Do you have a problem with concordances? They cover ALL the words.


In general, you can't simply publish another person's work, even if you cut it up and reorder it. I can't reorder the tracks on Violator and sell copies and except that Depeche Mode's lawyers aren't going to take turns kicking me in the junk.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:48 PM on January 12, 2010


Cheers all, especially Zarkonnen and cstross! Um, yeah, so as my (new) username indicates, I'm the author of the BENTHIC WARS stuff, and I just wanted to reassure all that nope, in no way was I ever considering trying to sell any of it. As Mayor West said, I have some other works on E2 (all original) which I was considering trying to market.

cstross: Many, many many thanks for The Laundryverse. The deadtree editions of Atrocity Archives and Jennifer Morgue that I own are some of my favorite fiction possessions. Moar plz kthx. :-) :-)
posted by thecustodian at 12:53 PM on January 12, 2010 [13 favorites]


(Expect a somewhat grimmer read than the last two novels ...)

*muffled yet manly Squee!*

Ahem.

I preferred the tone of Archives and Jungle personally so this makes me Happy.
posted by Skorgu at 1:35 PM on January 12, 2010


I just learned that Charles Stross wrote part of the Fiend Folio. That is frickin' awesome. I am nerding out like you wouldn't believe. I wonder if it's still in a box in my mom's basement... A rugose box full of eldritch nightmares, natch.
posted by Mister_A at 1:59 PM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


With regard to the question of monetizing fanfic, were there ever discussions between cstross and the Lovecraft estate or are those works beyond the reach of copyright?
posted by hwestiii at 2:10 PM on January 12, 2010




Guys guys guys who would win in a fight Cthulhu or Unicron? Give reasons.
posted by turgid dahlia at 2:21 PM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Damn I wanna see Del Toro's At the Mountains of Madness.
posted by Mister_A at 2:23 PM on January 12, 2010


Grrr. No Mountains of Madness, and two fucking Hobbit films. That motherfucker.
posted by Artw at 2:25 PM on January 12, 2010


My fourth or fifth (depending on the day) favourite Lovecraft story is arguably Robert Bloch fan fiction.
posted by Artw at 2:27 PM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm currently working on laying the groundwork for an alternate history novel set during World War I in which magic, though not common, is an accepted fact of life, and the Germans have somehow wrangled a bunch of necromancers to help them win the war. The world I'm trying to build has Lovecraftian underpinnings, in which the universe is basically the effluvium cast off by an agitated Azathoth, and is populated by gods of various sizes composed of the same, including Cthulhu and his ilk. The gods are, of course, n-dimensional, possessing of primal power over the universe, and their activity and etcetera are governed by things we can't understand, and thus sometimes, as the stars shift, the bigger ones fall asleep.

Life on Earth all came from Ubbo-Sathla, the Unbegotton Source, but otherwise developed in a more or less normal fashion, via evolution. The exception is humanity, whose evolution was guided by a loose coalition of small gods, who came to earth after the Old Ones had already fallen into their death-like hibernation. The big gods, you see, like to eat the small ones, and so the smaller ones band together for protection, and also like to travel to places in the universe where all the big ones are hibernating. While each god in this universe is unique, many share broad characteristics, and humans are shaped to resemble, as closely as is possible for lesser beings, the group of gods doing the shaping. One of the consequences of this is that some humans are particularly suited to wielding cosmic power, and are thus mages of various sorts, though none in any way comparable in power to even the smallest god. As humanity develops, so many sentient beings on one planet attracts more of the stuff of magic there, and a spiritual realm (Faerie) comes into existence, populated by a variety of spiritual beings (the fae and sidhe, and the various spirits of the many cultures around the world, like Japanese oni and Indian rakshasa).

There are also two flavors of demons--temptation style pseudo-Christian demons, and Laundry-style Outsiders of death and madness. The latter are definitely from outside our universe, but I can't decide if the tempters should also be from other, even less pleasant universes, eager to gain a toe-hold here to escape their hellverses, or if they should be the darkest, nastiest denizens of the spirit world. And I'm a little uncertain as to where to fit the non-GOO mythos races into this; the Deep Ones, the Mi-Go, the Great Race, and the Crinoids Builders of Antarctica (more commonly known as the Elder Things).

Also, to go back to the small gods of man, even though we loosely resemble them, from our perspective, they're not very human at all. They're primal things, cruel and incomprehensible, far worse even than the not-very-nice Nordic and Greek gods, which are of course distorted versions of them. And yeah, one of them is Nodens.

Anyway, my point, apropos of nothing, is that it's it's really hard to construct a framework that reconciles the Cthulhu Mythos with historical world mythology.

Oh, and welcome to Metafilter, thecustodian. You have a good screen name.
posted by Caduceus at 2:33 PM on January 12, 2010


Caduceus - you don't have to have everything, just #include the bits of the mythos you need. You'll notice that it's actually pretty hard just to reconcile all the bits of the mythos Lovecraft wrote.

Oh, and check out the work Kim Newman has done with WWI referencing the fiction of the time, particularly The Bloody Red Baron.

(It may be a shit to get hold of, as all Kim Newman stuff seems to be)
posted by Artw at 2:40 PM on January 12, 2010


I hear such good things about Anno Dracula, but haven't actually read any Newman.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:43 PM on January 12, 2010


Someday I'll have an excuse to put together a Kim Newman/Anno Dracula FPP.

There's some free stuff here, though some of it is lesser work or stuff that plain won't make sense without other works.
posted by Artw at 2:47 PM on January 12, 2010


Yeah, I did an AskMe a while back about fantastic WWI fiction, and The Bloody Red Baron was one that definitely intrigued me, but I haven't been able to find it in anything remotely resembling my price range. It would be super cool if the Anno Dracula books went back into print, Mr. Theoretical Simon & Schuster Representative Who Stumbled Upon This Thread Through a Google Search For Some Reason.

For my own stuff, all that is mostly a framework for how I'm going to be thinking about the world the stories are happening in more than anything that's really going to directly impact what happens, at least in any of the early ones. It's as much a thought experiment as anything, because I'm weird and kind of masochistic. It's also unlikely to matter much in the long run, since I'm a slow writer, shit at plotting, and easily distracted, so it's sixes as to whether an actual story ever gets written.
posted by Caduceus at 3:02 PM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Artw: copyright extension is a crawling abomination like unto something HPL himself might have invented in a drunken, laudanum-assisted collaboration with Franz Kafka triggered by a fit of mutual misanthropic self-loathing. Unfortunately, it's locked in by World Trade Organization treaties and we can't easily do anything about it.

(I'd like to see: 20 years, fixed, for software. 50 years, fixed, for other corporate-owned copyrights. Life plus 10, renewable in 10 year increments by the heirs (with no limit on number of renewals, as long as they're willing to repeatedly file the paperwork) for works created by individuals. As 95% of books fall out of print within a decade of the author's death, this would mean a de facto term of life-plus-ten except in the rare case of authors who are posthumously popular. Alas? It ain't gonna happen — The Mouse will see to that.)

I have a tricky little work-around for how the Laundryverse interacts with the Lovecraftverse (clue: it isn't a one-on-one mapping) but I'm going to dribble it out slowly rather than dumping it in the reader's lap. If you're expecting straight canon Lovecraftiana, there are a couple of big "you can't do that!" moments in store for you ...
posted by cstross at 3:22 PM on January 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


So long as those moments are in store, Mr. Stross, I'll be happy.

Caduceus: I feel your pain. My writing habits (and subject matter) are close to yours. Maybe we could get some sort of Mefi Novel Writing Club together? Effigy has had great success in his collaborative efforts (my own collaborative short story efforts died on the vine, though) of producing a chapter a month, so maybe some sort of Circle of the Unmotivated is in order?
posted by robocop is bleeding at 3:45 PM on January 12, 2010


It's funny - I've actually had a whole bunch of stories published since that AskMe that are, to some extent or another, Lovecraftian, but very rarely directly used anything of lovecrafts - the odd concept here and there, but certainly not many proper nouns - I think I've referenced clarke Ashton Smith's Hyperborea, but that's kind of generic, Frank Bellnap Longs time travel drug Liao (again, I beleive that's a little generic as well), Lovecraft himself in a story about Simon inspired Chaos Magicians trying to worship the great old ones (SUPRISE: WHEN IT WORKS THEY ACTUALLY JUST GET EATEN), or and some Ghouls that are refered to as Ghouls, again pretty generic (I think most people thought they were zombies or vampires).

I think I'm mainly interested in doing stuff thats Lovecraftian without directly taking from Lovecraft, though it's fun seeing the odd little reference here and there for flavour. TBH I think namechecking a bunch of Mythos stuff is often a bit of a rookie move anyway, up there with trying to write in Lovecrafts wacky ornate style.

All of these are things I like about A Colder War and the Laundry books, BTW. It's got the right spirit, doesn't overly namecheck, snappy style that doesn't ape HPL.
posted by Artw at 3:52 PM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you can find the anthology Miskatonic University, it's got a story in it called "The Sothis Radiant". It captures Lovecraft's concept of humanity' horrifying cosmic insignificance better than any pastiche or imitation I'm aware of.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:57 PM on January 12, 2010


On another Strossy note: I'm having a bugger of a time coming up with anything for this AskMe based on this Stross blog post - it seems a lot of what I think of as 2009 works are actually 2008.
posted by Artw at 4:03 PM on January 12, 2010


(sheepishly looks down, kicks rock with sneaker) So ...uhhh Robocop ..do you ...like comic books?
posted by The Whelk at 4:20 PM on January 12, 2010


> In general, you can't simply publish another person's work, even if you cut it up and reorder it.

That's a really strange way of defining a lexicon. Is anyone going to pass over the original and just grab the lexicon instead? No, of course not. But it has a great deal of value to those who are reading (and writing!) the originals. So it's both more and less than the original work, and clearly a hippogriff of a different color.

> Life plus 10, renewable in 10 year increments by the heirs (with no limit on number of renewals, as long as they're willing to repeatedly file the paperwork) for works created by individuals.

Are those rights transferrable (say, to an immortal corporation?) Are they subject to estate taxes?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 4:24 PM on January 12, 2010


So ...uhhh Robocop ..do you ...like comic books?

Why, yes. I seem to be doing my devotions at the altar of Simonson's Thor at the moment.

The tactical implications of a Surtur are astounding!

Although that bit with leading the armies of Muspelheim into a trap betwixt the Twin Towers was a bit retroactively... awkward.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:05 PM on January 12, 2010


That's a really strange way of defining a lexicon.

The original website, which was at first what was going to be published, contained massive amounts of text taken directly from the book. If I remember correctly, there was more of Rowling's text than there was original work. While that's fine for a website which can be accessed for free, Rowling quite reasonably objected to somebody taking her work, cutting it up, and selling it.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:30 PM on January 12, 2010


> While that's fine for a website which can be accessed for free, Rowling quite reasonably objected to somebody taking her work, cutting it up, and selling it.

That's a website that JKR admitted she used for her own reference, and gave an 'award' to (in 2004) on account of that. What's her problem?

Oh, I see. She's fine when other people are footing the bills for her, but will sue when they might actually *gasp* make some money off of their efforts (and make no mistake, these are the results of other people's labors, her future endeavors don't enter into it.)

Stay classy, JR.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:53 PM on January 12, 2010


That's a website that JKR admitted she used for her own reference, and gave an 'award' to (in 2004) on account of that. What's her problem?

That she liked the website does not mean that she consented to having it monetized. Her approval of one non-profit use of her copyrighted material does not constitute consent to another use. Just because I'm okay with you cutting through my yard on your walk doesn't mean I'm okay with you eating out of my fridge, you know?

She's fine when other people are footing the bills for her, but will sue when they might actually *gasp* make some money off of their efforts (and make no mistake, these are the results of other people's labors, her future endeavors don't enter into it.)

You have to be fucking joking me. You cannot possibly be serious, and I resent you for trolling me.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:47 PM on January 12, 2010


Assume I'm dead serious, and work out from there.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:51 PM on January 12, 2010


I read this at work, where I wasn't logged in, and the ads were "They're coming for you: Manhunters" and "How Stories Go Wrong."
posted by showmethecalvino at 10:06 PM on January 12, 2010


I LIKE THE CAPITALISED CODE WORDS FOR EVERYTHING.
posted by nihraguk at 11:03 PM on January 12, 2010


ChurchHatesTucker: on copyright -- the devil is in the detail, isn't it?

On JKR and the lexicon, you missed an important point. The Lexicon was bolted together by a grass-roots bunch of fans, on a website hoste by one particular fan. Our OPF subsequently turns around and decides to turn the website he runs into a book, taking material written by JKR and concordances built by an army of third parties and publishing it as his own product.

How'd you feel if one of the creators of MeFi turned around without prior notice and started publishing a "Best of MeFi" book containing your material, contributed previously without any warning that this might happen?

Another point you're missing is that, as Pope Guilty pointed out, giving a bunch of neighbourhood kids permission to play in your garden (or turning a blind eye to them when they do so) isn't the same as giving them permission to put up a sign saying "AMUSEMENT PARK" outside and charge admission.
posted by cstross at 2:13 AM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


> On JKR and the lexicon, you missed an important point. The Lexicon was bolted together by a grass-roots bunch of fans, on a website hoste by one particular fan. Our OPF subsequently turns around and decides to turn the website he runs into a book, taking material written by JKR and concordances built by an army of third parties and publishing it as his own product.

It's an interesting point, but I don't believe that was JKR's complaint. If it was, the settlement didn't do anything for those people, anyway.

How'd you feel if one of the creators of MeFi turned around without prior notice and started publishing a "Best of MeFi" book containing your material, contributed previously without any warning that this might happen?

I'd be elated that I could do all my Christmas shopping in one fell swoop. (I'll send you a signed copy. That's a promise.)

But then, I'm old enough to remember when copyright was a monopoly granted upon application, and not some alleged moral right that encompassed my every doodle of a snowflake. *shakes fist at the stinking corpse of Voltaire*

... giving a bunch of neighbourhood kids permission to play in your garden (or turning a blind eye to them when they do so) isn't the same as giving them permission to put up a sign saying "AMUSEMENT PARK" outside and charge admission.

No, it's not. But this is more like stopping kids from pointing out what you've planted in your garden. Or something.

I see I've quoted you at length. I hope you're not offended.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 7:37 AM on January 13, 2010


I'm pretty sure last time I was involved in a discussion Re:copyright with ChurchHatesTucker he argued that copyright is inherently evil and that piracy goes beyond being a minor crime of convenience that is usually pretty excusable and instead is a moral obligation of all good people everywhere.

Which is to say discussing copyright with is pretty much a waste of time.
posted by Artw at 7:55 AM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


> ... he argued that copyright is inherently evil and that piracy goes beyond being a minor crime of convenience that is usually pretty excusable and instead is a moral obligation of all good people everywhere.

You're not wrong, Artw, just imprecise. I'm a copyright minimalist, and I think piracy can be a moral obligation (e.g., rescuing our culture.)

Whether it's a waste of time discussing such matters with me, I leave as an exercise to the reader.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:33 AM on January 13, 2010


Agony Column Podcast: A 2009 Interview with S. T. Joshi

Interesting that Joshi claims to know nothing much about Science Fiction. To me the SFinal aspects of Lovecraft are my favourite bits.
posted by Artw at 1:30 PM on January 13, 2010


Caduceus: I feel your pain. My writing habits (and subject matter) are close to yours. Maybe we could get some sort of Mefi Novel Writing Club together? Effigy has had great success in his collaborative efforts (my own collaborative short story efforts died on the vine, though) of producing a chapter a month, so maybe some sort of Circle of the Unmotivated is in order?

I would happily get behind something like that. I know at least one other MeFite who might be interested too, though his problem is that he keeps writing short stories instead of working on his novel. There are a lot of MeFites whose writing, when they tell either real or made up stories, I really enjoy, and I imagine a few might be interested as well. (Really enjoyed your blog when you were still updating it.) For what it's worth, I'm a better editor than I am a writer, so as long as it wouldn't interfere with me doing things that might actually pay me, I could help some folks out in that department as well.
posted by Caduceus at 6:59 PM on January 13, 2010


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