“Lemma the Librarian – Beast of the (Morning) Wood”


Published: February 13, 2016


A little bit of bookkeeping first: this story opens with “In the end we decided to just put that nasty business in Kymri behind us and head for the next book…”. There is a story there*, but it works perfectly well as a noodle incident, so I’m not going to linger. On to the Lovecraft!

This story, I think, crosses the line into straight-up parody. The fact that Gwenneg is the nicest, most benevolent Old One cultist you could ever imagine! (The bit where he reenters the story kindly helping out an injured old man is what put him over the edge for me, although his inability to say the word “sex” despite running an orgiastic cult is also pretty great**.) The consenting sacrificial victim demanding that she be unnecessarily chained to the altar to be ravaged! Rothek-Zarduk, the black beast of the woods with a thousand young perpetually spurting penises! Iason, attempting to cut his own junk off to save the world!

It’s a hilarious story, is my point. For all that “the sun blazed a brilliant purple in a black sky full of gleaming, fat, jewel-colored stars” – which is a pretty great line – and the fact that the village is, in theory, sliding into a chaos dimension where it will be horrifyingly unmade, there’s never any real sense of danger. It’s just too silly to really carry that over.

Which, strangely enough, is vitally important for the sake of advancing the overall arc. Lemma’s conscience and willingness to endure dangers to help others continues to grow, of course, but this is also the one where Lemma and Iason Do It for the first time. If they’d done it without any kind of weird-ass mind control, it’d be anticlimactic and not really fit with the themes of the story; if they’d done it under the influence, it’d be creepy and kinda unpleasant for a romantic couple we’re presumably rooting for. But by having them agree do do it, Lemma get all cock-crazy in the process, and the whole thing be wrapped up in jokes, in a parody so silly as to be impossible to take seriously, we’re over the hump without any real moral qualm at all. It’s a fine needle to thread but @midorikonton carries it off well.

*“Harping on About It”, available on Smashwords and @midorikonton​‘s Patreon. Support your local porn merchants!

**I 100% believe that his acolytes get up to some crazy orgy shit in the woods, and he has not so much as touched any of them. Which is not usual cult-leader behaviour, but it’s a parody and it’s much funnier this way. “Please, master, take us! Take us violently!” “But then who would chant the important ancient chants?” “…Fine. We’ll just be over here, fucking, if you need us. (Jerk.)”

When The Fuck Are We? 🤷

Not as much to say about this one*. We’re in Thumbria, “the northernmost of the Seven Kingdoms”, ie Northumbria, the northernmost of the Heptarchy kingdoms. Name’s a little more mangled than usual, probably because unlike Kyrno, etc, it’s an English name, and unlike Mercia it’s still somewhat in use. The people here mostly seem to have Celtic names again, although they’re also super-rural, so that works in either the “ancient Celtic Britons” or “unassimilated Celtic subjects of Angles” cases. The villagers seem pretty unconcerned about a cultists stealing their daughters off to his weird religion, and once they run out of other options turn to his religion without much qualm. As mentioned before, that kind of casual syncretism is much more of a preclassic thing than a dark ages thing. Chalk one up for the Bronze Age Collapse.

Gods are, of course, period: gods are in pretty much every culture and time. “Demons” are a bit more Christian-tinged (the demons we see later in the series are probably the most explicitly Christian thing in the whole series) but the idea of powerful, malevolent spirits to go with the beneficent ones that get worship are also pretty widespread and thus also period. Great Old Ones… are not. They’re an invention of Lovecraft (and even more, his followers and pastichers) in the 20th C. The closest ancient religions have would probably be the spirits of Chaos destroyed by creator gods at the beginning of various mythologies – Tiamat defeated by Marduk** is the most famous, probably, but lots of others have something similar. But Tiamat is just a big ol’ chaos dragon, not a threat to the structure of the universe itself, and – crucially – is dead. Generally speaking, chaos in ancient myth is something that has been defeated, not something that needs to be kept at bay. Lovecraft’s brand of cosmic horror springs from very modern concerns; it’s nihilistic and hopeless and very anti-humanocentric, which is a fundamentally alien view to any of the cultures we’ve been talking about in the historical sections.

On the other hand, Lovecraft has soaked into modern fantasy pretty deeply, if only in the cliched monsters with “eyes on tentacles and tentacles with mouths on the end and eyes that were also mouths” sense, and without that we’d miss out on “we’d all go insane, dissolve, and die, though the order in which those would happen was up for grabs.” So I think it’s worth it in this case.

*Ironically, I could probably ramble for a long time about bardic culture for “Harping on About It”. Frustratingly for my timeline-establishing efforts, there’s also a character that runs around screaming “we’re in the sixth century! We’re in the sixth century!” But I committed to only writing about the publicly available stuff.

**Which, according to the author’s note, is part of the etymology for “Rothek-Zarduk”, and the green grass grew all around all around and the green grass grew all around. Although Marduk’s role in that myth is of the conqueror of primordial chaos, rather than its embodiment.


Next time: Lemma gets mindfucked, as usual, but so does the reader, hoo boy. I am driven entirely mad, and talk about Thomas the Tank Engine.

Seeing the date on this is interesting, because it is so blatantly obviously inspired by Neoreaction a Basilisk, which I was one of the first five people in the world to read… but even I didn’t read it until March 2016, and this story was a month before that.

Ah well, Lovecraftian entities are known for doing shit like that to time, and so does Phil Sandifer.

Anyway, yeah, the point here is that Lovecraft was afraid of salad. (Really! You can look it up!) Grown-ups are more interested in fucking the mysterious Other than cowering in terror from it–that’s the real default human response to meeting a strange tribe with strange ways and strange appearances. Not try to kill them or enslave them or hide from them or shut them out; try to fuck them. Five minutes study of our DNA demonstrates that.

The closest ancient religions have would probably be the spirits of
Chaos destroyed by creator gods at the beginning of various mythologies 

Speaking of Phil, last week he got attacked by Tumblr pagans for defending Kate Orman’s right to include Apep in her personal ceremonies.

Such beings have more in common with Lemmaverse demons than Old Ones IMO: they’re just “gods going the other way.” I’ve always liked the Shinto notion that the difference between gods (well, Shinto doesn’t have god gods as we understand them, but close enough for purposes of this sentence) and demons is the difference between a river watering your crops and the same river washing away your house in a flood.

I will cop to demons being rather more Christian than anything else in the Lemmaverse, but hey, if I’m doing fantasy kitchen sink, why not include the most popular fantasy? Plus, seriously, no way am I not having succubi and incubi show up.

Anyway, thank you for your kind words about how I handled Lemma and Iason’s First Time™, that was very much what I was going for. 🙂