Read on for the detailed incubation of the lively adventure “The Lost City of Leng” by Rudy Rucker & Paul Di Filippo in our issue on sale now. Rudy takes us through his and Paul’s creative process and inspiration, providing the rollicking story’s historical context. Warning: spoilers may reside below!
Early in 2017, I was starting work on my next novel, Return to the Hollow Earth, intended as a sequel to my 1992 novel, The Hollow Earth. Unsure where to take my story, I considered introducing a Cthulhu mythos theme. But then I decided to fission off the Lovecraft element into a separate story. And it worked! Paul Di Filippo and I wrote “The Lost City of Leng,” and it’s on the cover of Asimov’s. Here are some extracts from my writing journals.
February 15, 2017. I want to write a twenty thousand word novella that’s a sequel to Lovecraft’s classic novella “At the Mountains of Madness.” For me, this work is the single greatest SF story ever written. I’ve admired it for years and years, and every time I reread it, it seems better. In this post, I’ll call Lovecraft’s novella “ATMOM” for short. I want to do the sequel project quite seriously, making a real push to create something great. Not a jape. But no need to be too serious about it, I suppose. Given that I’m more or less incapable of writing something that isn’t, at some level, at least to me, funny.
….Would be more fun to do a full-on Cthulhu Mythos tale. Not that Ole Tentacle-Face actually needs to appear himself.
The tale is related to the Starkweather-Moore expedition that Lovecraft’s character William Dyer is inveighing against. I want to collaborate on it with Paul Di Filippo. Serious pastiche is one of Paul’s fortes, and I enjoy it myself. . . . Cf. my novel The Hollow Earth, which is a pastiche of Eddie Poe.
Maybe we’ll call it “The Plateau of Leng” which was Lovecraft’s indirectly intimated name for both the Elder Ones’ city and for the landscape it was in.
Re: this name, note that in 2009 my friend Marc Laidlaw wrote a memorably creepy Lovecraft-style story called “Leng,” which appears in his recent story collection 400 Boys and 50 More. Marc’s ending for his tale is one of the most disgusting climaxes ever, so be careful not to read any online discussion of the tale before you savor the foul original itself.
March 30, 2017. I finished a new painting, In the Lost City of Leng. It goes with the ATMOM sequel project.
[In the Lost City of Leng, acrylic on canvas, March, 2017, 40” x 30.” Click for a larger version of the painting.]
Recall that Lovecraft’s tale is about some adventurers who find their way into a tens-of-thousands of years old city beneath the ice and snow of an obscure plateau in Antarctica. And some of the down-sloping walls of the hallways are adorned with friezes that describe the history, science, art, and culture of the “Elder Ones” or “cukes” who lived there. The cukes were all but exterminated by some train-car-sized slugs known as shoggoth. So in my painting, we see a couple of explorers, totally unaware of the waiting shoggoth below. . . .
[Awesome Fake Classics Illustrated Comic Cover for ATMOM]
As an aside, I found a nice online edition of “At the Mountains of Madness.” The page includes a reproduction of a truly bitchin’ cover, purportedly for a Classics Illustrated edition of the book. The image features a raging echinoderm Elder One or what I call a “cuke-man” waving a hapless dog and a man. Dig the frieze in the background? Like the one I painted, and like the ones that Lovecraft describes.
Love the guy cringing in his Antarctic furs. When I posted this image on Facebook, one of my more comics-savvy readers, Seth Kallen Deitch, informed me the cover is a fake. Wonder who the artist is. I just love those shades of green.
Looking up “At the Mountains of Madness” on Wikipedia, the closest thing to a sequel is Stross’s magisterial “A Colder War” in Toast. I reread it, and it’s very strong, and even a bit daunting. It’s set in the Reagan years, and the existence of the “plateau of Leng” with the lost city of the Elder Ones is systematically covered up by the powerful nations—they signed a 1935 “Dresden Accord.” Even Hitler signed. In the end, to my relief, Stross’s tale diverges from the path I plan. “A Colder War” segues into a WWIII disaster story, with the Lovecraftian Old Ones off-camera. On camera we have some star-gates to other worlds. Bleak worlds. And the story has an emphasis on the evil quality of the alien critters, which gets into another area of the Cthulhu mythos, the Eater of Souls thing, and at the end we sense that the main character is literally in Hell.
I also found this sidelight on Wikipedia.
“Chaosium Games released a campaign book [that is, a connected series of battles, adventures, and scenarios] titled Beyond the Mountains of Madness for their “Call of Cthulhu “role-playing game in 1999. This book details the Starkweather-Moore expedition return to the ice to discover the truth about the Miskatonic Expedition. The book incorporates many of the aspects of the original Lovecraft story, including references to the Poe story novel The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, [the artist] Nicholas Roerich, [and the characters] Danforth and Dyer.”
The “campaign book” is on Abe Books for $120 or more, so never mind reading that.
Random idea: Have the characters be beatniks, a la William Burroughs’s Yage Letters searching for deeper kicks? Nah, that would be corny. Also I just did the Beats in my novel Turing & Burroughs. Would be more fun to do a full-on Cthulhu Mythos tale. Not that Ole Tentacle-Face actually needs to appear himself.
[Rudy Rucker and Paul Di Filippo in Boston, August, 2012.]
I just now wrote Paul Di Filippo to ask if he “will” collaborate on this, and he’s like yeah, but not just now, he has commitments. I wrote back:
I went and reread the poem “Kubla Khan” just now. Possibly we can work in some of my Hollow Earth stuff into our tale, as it seems logical that’s where Coleridge’s Alf and the river in ATMOM both ran. Stench of penguins at their indoor pen at the NYC Central Park zoo. Riding down through the sunless sea on the backs of two penguins. The resounding *”bonng”* of freedom and air as our characters pop out into the Hollow Earth. And there in the far distance, at the Hollow Earth’s Central Anomaly, there one can see *”zonnng”* the giant sea cucumbers, the true Great Old Ones.
Paul said he was booked till March 26, 2017, but he allowed as how he might have some “interstitial time.” I kept after him.
Aha. Secret interstitial high-quality Di Filippo time is on tap! I’m gonna frikkin’ start the story this week. Time spent on the “wrong” project is always the sweetest. First I’ll make a few notes. I’m thinking the characters might be Starkweather and Moore, the guys who HPL’s character says were about to make the second expedition. Say Moore is from Providence. He’s more of a practical guy. Starkweather is his somewhat flaky prof pal, like me. And we have a woman as well. She starts out as Starkweather’s wife, but she ends up with Moore. Starkweather dies or disappears near the end, maybe he tumbles off toward the center of the Hollow Earth. He’ll want to be with the giant sea-cukes at Earth’s core. I’ll get some notes together and write maybe 3 or 4 thousand words and send it to you in a week or two.
And Paul was like, “Go, man, go. Love it. It’s been too long.” So he’s in. Wonderful. Paul is great to work with. This will be our sixth story together. The others: “Instability,” “The Square Root of Pythagoras,” “The Elves of the Subdimensions,” “Fjaerland,” and “Yubba Vines.” You can find the older ones in my online “Complete Stories”.
[Rudy’s old painting “The Hollow Earth.” See his Paintings page for more info.]
I also read I. N. J. Culbard’s graphic novel version of “At the Mountains of Madness.” This one is nicely laid out, but it’s kind of weak. The buildings of Leng don’t look alien at all . . . they look like Chicago. And the friezes get short shrift, and the cuke-men aren’t so good, nor is the shoggoth, and the author writes the word “Tekeli-li” at least a hundred times in big red letters near the end of the book . . . which doesn’t accomplish much. So much of Lovecraft’s effect comes from his prose. Culbard’s big eyeless penguin is good.
One more source to check, suggested to me by Paul Di Filippo: Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill, “Nemo: Heart of Ice.” I just bought it online. It came, I looked at it, not all that much there for me. He, too, invokes the sacred word “tekelili “in vain. The best thing is a super-intense drawing of a shoggoth.
In any case, it looks like there’s room for a post-ATMOM tale involving the Starkweather-Moore expedition. To give it a bit of an outsider spin, it could be that our trio of characters (two guys and a woman) are “not” in the S-M expedition. They’re freebooting drifters who go to Leng on their own, and have to outfox and/or save and/or be saved by the S-M crew.
Or, no, better, let’s say the S-M expedition has already been sent down, and it was an effin’ disaster with every single person killed and the support ships sucked down into giant maelstroms as well! Of course! And then our characters skeeve down there while the world powers dither whether to send a yet-larger expedition including full military support.
Having just three or maybe four in the party would make the story’s setup more lightweight. They’d need a special plane that can fly really far and high and carry a buttload of gas in expanded tanks, enough gas for the flight back, but that’s doable with 30’s tech, possibly modulo some slight rubber science tweaks. And they can “steal” the plane, so they don’t really have to be that rich or well-equipped.
An issue I’m worrying about is how our guys will deal with the shoggoths. These seem to be group organisms like mold slime, giant slugs the size of a subway train with eyes and mouths spontaneously forming and dissolving all over their surface. Capable of moving as fast as, say, a running horse. How do you kill one of those with tweaked ’30s tech? Projectiles seem fruitless. A flamethrower might work, but that’s hella heavy to lug over the Mountains of Madness and down into the tunnels of “Leng.” Need something trickier.
I’m thinking ultrasonics. Like a dog whistle. A shoggoth whistle. Breaks the thing up into amoebas. That “tekeli-li” chirp is how it holds itself together, an acoustic control system that marshals the protean cells of the undifferentiated tissues of the monster into form. You can carry the shoggoth whistle in your pocket! One of our guys, or, better, the woman, invents it.
Juices starting to flow, Muse casting flirty glances my way.
[Painting of Tibetan village by Nicholas Roerisch. Roerisch was an inspiration for Lovecraft’s vision of Leng.]
How about the characters? For his character, Paul suggested Diego Patchen, a character name from his novella “A Year in the Linear City.” Maybe we call him Doug Patchen so it’s a different person.
Doug Patchen (27) is a young, eager reporter for the Boston Globe. He has some female friends, but nothing serious as yet. Doug has done news stories on both of the other two male characters, which is how he knows them. He thinks the people in Lovecraft’s Arkham town are full of shit and, as a reverse twist, this turns out to be, by and large, true. Small-minded religious zealots. We’re not going to see Cthulhu in this story.
Stan Gorski (45) used to fly a rescue plane for the Boston Coast Guard. He lost his pilot’s license for drinking and for getting involved in liquor smuggling. (Prohibition ran from 1920-1933.) Works as a plane mechanic now. Has a wife and four kids. A tough guy, Raymond Chandleresque.
Dog. Gorski has a dog named Gurrr. Or maybe Hauhau, which is supposed to be the Polish imitation of barking. Or, no, give the dog to Doug Patchen, and use the name Baxter.
Leon Bagger (37), a marine biologist. And Bagger’s wife Vivi Nordstöm (32). Leon is Australian, Vivi is (seemingly) Norwegian. She’s an artist, she does watercolors of sea creatures for monographs. Also a techie. Doug develops a huge crush on Vivi, who in turn flirts with him. Doug met these two while doing a Sunday supplement article on them. In Fredrik Sjoberg’s book on entomologists, “The Fly Trap,” I read about a cool aviator and adventuress and explorer named Ester Blenda Nordström, and she had a sister named Vivi, who had a scandalous affair with an entomologist.
[Ester Blenda Nordström in flying togs. ~1930.]
Leon specializes in echinoderms. Especially sea cucumbers. Leon has been trapping sea cukes on the deep sea floor off Boston, in the Grand Banks. He had a problem in his research boat—it was sinking—and Stan Gorski rescued him. Leon and Ariel are visiting scholars at the Harvard Department of Invertebrate Zoology, part of the Museum of Comparative Zoology. The museum’s echinoderm collection is one of the richest in the world. Founded 1860.
Leon gets in touch with Doug because he objects so strongly to the upcoming military attack on Leng. He found out via upper-echelon Harvard faculty club gossip. Leon feels the Elder Ones—whom he calls cuke-men or cuke-women—are meant to be our friends. He wants Doug to help him organize a commando-like rogue expedition to Leng in the Mountains of Madness before the joint US-Australian military expedition goes there. Leon, who’s quite a schemer, has gotten in touch with Stan as well. Stan is up for anything, with his background of bootlegger connections.
And—oh yeah, this’ll kick it up a big notch—have a cuke-woman in the posse. She made her way to Boston (or at least to Melbourne) and connected with Leon Bagger to talk about the threat to her race. A little tricky for her to disguise herself as human. See the image below!
[Wonderful drawing of a cuke-man by Jason B. Thompson.]
Name? Urxa, or even Urxula, if that’s not too much. “Great” reveal when Doug meets this cuke-woman in Leon’s office. Vivi close friends with Urxula.
February 21, 2017. If we want to write a novella, we need several blocks of story. Here’s a first slash at it.
I. To Leng! Tell back story and get our characters onto the plane to Leng.
II. The Cukes. Leon enables them to find and to talk to a colony of cuke-men, who are agitated over the impending invasion. The cukes can hear radio waves, and generate them. They talk via the short-wave radio the crew brought along. The cuke-men are in some sense using Earth as a spaceship, riding it to wherever our solar system happens to be going.
III. The Battle with the Shoggoths. They use ultrasonics to wipe out the nest of Shoggoths beneath Leng. But not with full success. Maybe jealous Leon dynamites the entrance to the tunnel under Leng so that Doug and Vivi are trapped there—and then they have to exit via the Hollow Earth.
IV. The Lake. They flee down into the deep subterranean lake, riding on the backs of cukes, who feed them air from their mouths.
V. The Hollow Earth. At the bottom of the lake is a hole leading into the Hollow Earth. Maybe it’s just Doug and Vivi, or maybe Leon is with them after all, and he flips out and wants to fly all the way in to the center to be with the giant sea cucumbers there. Vivi becomes young Doug’s lover. Stan Gorski gets drunk and fucks Urxula (maybe) or otherwise pisses off the locals and they have to leave in haste. Doug and Vivi get married.
VI. They make their way home and forestall further invasions of Leng.
As often happens, we used almost none of this outline.
[The Grumman Plane Stan Gorski flew for Coast Guard Rescue, 1930.]
I was briefly tempted by the Dornier Do X planes, also called a flying boat. In 1930 it was the heaviest plane in the world. It has six engines in a row atop the flat wing and six more in the back and is enormous inside, with fifty passengers and a crew of 19. But the Do X could only manage an altitude of about 1,500 feet. And they only built three of them. Too kludgy.
In ATMOM they have large Dornier seaplanes that land on deep snow, and to land a seaplane in deep snow is indeed feasible. I assume they were the “Wal “ or Whale or Do J planes. The pass to Leng is 24,000 feet, which might actually have been too much for them. But Lovecraft didn’t worry about this.
For our novella, I like the Dornier Do 24, developed by Dornier for the Dutch Navy, mainly used by the Luftwaffe. All metal. Can carry bombs. Armed with Hispano-Suiza cannon and two machine guns. Crew of six. Do 24 range is 1,600 miles, ceiling 26,000 feet. Had three Wright Cyclone radial engines mounted up on the overhead wing. You could fly it from Ushuaia, capital of Tierra del Fuego, at the tip of South America to Leng if you managed to refill the gas tank on the way . . . you could manage that if you brought some barrels of fuel. Or, better yet, outfit the thing with double or triple size tanks of gas. If you double-size the tanks you can do 3,200 miles.
Regarding range, by the way, I notice that, as of 2017, there are round trip day-flights over Antarctica from both Sydney and Melbourne, Australia. Round trip flight time is about 12 hours in a 747, and it’s about a 6,000 mile round trip.
[The Dornier DO 24.]
Looking at the Google Earth program, I see a short geodesic path that goes straight down along the west coast of South America. About 10,000 miles from Boston to Leng. The Do 24 range is, again, 1,600 miles, and if I’ve doubled the fuel tank size, or a bit more, I can get a range of 3,600 miles, and I can do the trip in three hops.
A Do 24 cruises at about 200 mph. So we’re looking at a 50 hour flight for 10,000 miles, not too bad. Break it into just three hops to keep the story moving.
Boston – Lima – Ushuaia – Leng
3,600 mi – 3,000 mi – 3,500 mi
18 hr – 14 hr – 17 hr
A catch: they won’t have any gas to get back. Bagger and Gorski know this, but they don’t tell Doug, who’s too green to thin of it. They’re counting on the cukes to carry them back. Urxula told them they would.
Suppose that one of the other Do 24x planes sets out in pursuit a day or two later, and he can show up at the end in Leng for the finale.
ATMOM expedition starts from Boston on September 2, 1930, and when they get to Antarctica it’s November 7, 1930. It’s not quite clear when Lovecraft’s story is written, perhaps in mid-1931, and the Starkweather-Moore expedition would be in the fall/winter of 1931.
And then I’m saying the S-M explorers were massacred by shoggoths—”despite the cuke-men’s attempt to restrain the shoggoths”—and their ships disappeared into maelstroms. There may also have been some damage from mysteriously purposeful lightning bolts, as were observed by Dyer above the next peaks over (the true Mountains of Madness.) And it wasn’t covered up, it was all on the radio.
After the utter disaster of Starkweather-Moore, nobody does a follow-up for a couple of years. Let’s say this brings us to the end of 1933. And the US, or maybe some private guys, are planning a secret expedition. And our guys steal their Do 24x in Boston at the very end of December 1933, on New Year’s Eve. Just checked and—how beautiful—there was a full moon that night. Perfect for a long flight.
Lovecraft’s Leng is near Lat 76 15’ S, Long 113 10’ E. In East Antarctica, which is (I hadn’t known this) the part of Antarctica that’s in the Eastern hemisphere. It’s close to being due south of New Zealand and Australia. It’s on a plateau beyond the volcanic Mt. Erebus in McMurdo Sound. Beyond the Transantarctic Range. Inland from Queen Mary Land.
[Map of Antarctica. Leng is by Lake Vostok.]
Turns out Leng is near the subglacial Lake Vostok , which Stross incorporates into his “A Colder War” of 2002. Lake Vostok’s existence was suspected around 1960, and confirmed around 1990. By some uncanny vision or stroke of luck, Lovecraft writes about a warm subterranean lake beneath the Elder One’s city of Leng. And William Dyer and the grad student Danforth were on their way there when they encountered the shoggoth.
Lake Vostok is at 77 S, 106 E, Also near the Southern “Pole of Cold,” that is, the spot where the coldest temperatures occur, at 78 S 102 E. Record: -130 degrees Fahrenheit, in July, 1983. Temperatures rise only to -10 F in the summer season of December to February. The surface of Lake Vostok is some 13,000 feet below the surface of the 12,000 foot thick ice, which puts the surface over 1,000 feet below sea level. This creepy lake is 150 miles by 30 miles, and is itself up to 2,500 feet deep. The Russians have drilled down to sample its water—one hopes without contaminating it.
[Lake Vostok, from “Wikipedia”]
And Leon Bagger and I know that a passage to the Hollow Earth lies beneath the lake, via the River Alf.
The Third Thing
“March 20, 2017. “ In ATMOM, there’s some third thing other than the cukes and the shoggoths. Danforth sees something in the sky as they were leaving and it drives him crazy, and Dyer tremulously writes about this. A list of things Danforth said. I edited out the boring ones.
He has on rare occasions whispered disjointed and irresponsible things about “the carven rim”, “the windowless solids with five dimensions”, “the primal white jelly”, “the color out of space”, “the moon-ladder”; but when he is fully himself he repudiates all this and attributes it to his curious and macabre reading of earlier years.
And then I put these things into a vision that my Doug Patchen has. You could also call the third thing the “Unknown Kadath.” On the other hand, what if it’s a “good “thing? Just for a twist.
We’re going along well, nearly 14,000 words into the story now. I’m writing like a maniac—polishing, patching, and adding—fitting our word hoard into a seemly form. Putting a spandex Spanx body-shaper onto our textual shoggoth.
I’d considered having them leave Antarctica via a shortcut through the Hollow Earth, but I think I’ll drop any detailed Hollow Earth stuff—although perhaps the cukes can adumbrate it. Maybe their goal is to go down through Vostok lake into the Hollow Earth, and the shoggoths are hanging them up. We won’t follow them through the lake and into the Hollow Earth—that would be “a bridge too far.” We won’t even explicitly say there’s a star gate inside the Hollow Earth, although maybe there is one. Hollow planets are like stepping stones, or teleportation booths, you hop from one interior to the next.
[James Ryman’s rendering of one of the cuke-people, also known as Elder Ones. The wings are clearly shown here.]
During the battle with the shoggoths, Doug himself blows up the fuel dump, firing a Do 24 cannon blast into it because the boss shoggoth is right on top of the fuel dump. And then a flock of flying cukes invoke the power of the unknown Kadath to send lightning onto the shoggoth. And then the plane with frikkin’ Teirney shows up, and maybe he saves our boys. Or there’s a fight.
Not sure if Professor Leon is still alive in the end. Maybe yes, why not. The two guys were the dupes of Vivi and now she’s gone and they’re comrades in arms.
I’m assuming that Vivi is in fact a cuke, she’s been one all along, and of course Urxula knew this, but Professor Leon didn’t know, or maybe he does to some extent know. Vivi uses a “glamour,” that is, hypnotic teep to make herself seem like a woman to them. She isn’t actually speaking words out loud, only piping, and the teep makes it sound like words. Vivi enlisted Leon so she could get her ultrasound amplifier working, and so the cukes cold sing the shoggoth to bits. And it almost works, but there’s a final white-slime shuggoth core that’s immune to the music and it’s rampaging up towards them, and that’s the one that Doug blows up with the fuel dump—and maybe he’s put the dynamite in there too.
I do still want a scene in those tunnels with the cuke hieroglyphs. Maybe Vivi and Leon and Baxter and Urxula go down there to lure the shoggoths out.
[Rudy and Paul at H. P. Lovecraft’s grave in Providence, RI, 2003]
(1) Paul had the idea of them learning a shoggoth-language spell that would stop a shoggoth in its tracks. But why wouldn’t the cukes know this chant, and be using it? Maybe it only works if it’s declaimed in an ultrasonic treble which penetrates into the bodies of shoggoths.
(2) A problem: If I have, like, a cubic mile of shoggoths, then blowing up the fuel dump isn’t going to kill them. Unless—the shoggoths are flammable. And in the end, it’s the flame thrower that turns the tide. Prefigure his by having the shoggoth in Ushuaia harbor catch fire, though that would be too obvious, have it smoldering, or have them see a plume of smoke behind them.
(3) .. I’d said that a lot of the Starkweather guys were killed by smart lightning bolts. Doug despairingly blows up the fuel dump under the shoggoth, shooting it with the cannon like I said, but then “whoops “the shoggoth pinches out the flame and comes crawling forward—and that’s when the storm kicks up and the lightning zaps the shuggoth mass extinction. Oh, wait, I said the flying cukes would guide the bolts. And yon shoggoth is a crispy critter. And even more Kadath lightning up on the mountains of madness, killing off the castle-lurking shoggoths up there as well.
Final twist, as they leave and look back, the Mountains of Madness shrink down, and Leng totally disappears into a smooth, rolling field of snow. But maybe that’s too: “And then little Nemo fell out of bed and woke up.” But it’s a traditional kind of fairy-tale ending, and it gives closure, so go with it. And you can always dig “deeper” if you really want to find Leng again.
April 2-10, 2017. Paul sent me version 6, pretty well wrapping it up at 17,800 words. He left out a couple of moves that I still might put in, and added some others, mostly better ones.. I’ll go over the whole thing and try to get the tone right—I’d like it to be serious, although somewhat funny.
So okay, by April 6, I had the ending down, and I went through it to make the whole thing consistent. I also started reading another H. P. Lovecraft story, “The Whisperer in Darkness,” which Paul had been talking about. He got his “planet Yuggoth” from there, also a guy Henry Akeley who had his brain packed in a can.
I sent Paul my version 7, he sent back a very slightly changed version 8, and then I dug in and worked for a week on the final version, number 9. As I wrote Paul about it:
“I went over the whole thing once, and went over the final part three or four times. Thickening and smoothing and logicizing. I made Leon a bit more of a bohemian. Added a couple of small eyeball kick scenes: a vision of Leng 100,000 years ago, and a view of Lake Alph, lit by Vivi’s flare gun. The very last scene has the welcome feel of Jack and Neal on the road. And now it’s 21K words and change. A novella, yes.”
Paul sent it off to one of the major SF magazines, and now we’ll see. IMHO, a Hugo and a Nebula would be in order, but I’ve been wrong about such things before 🙂
It was really fun getting into this world, and now I miss it. I added a light Hollow Earth element to the story, which kind of nudges me to go back to my current novel project, “Return to the Hollow Earth”.. I liked our character Doug Patchen. An unsure-of-himself young reporter in 1934. Maybe I could have a character like that for my Hollow Earth novel-in-progress.
April 20, 2017. Much to our fury and chagrin, the editor to whom Paul had sent our “In the Lost City of Leng” rejected it. Too raw for this person’s taste it seems. For some reason our use of the slang word “mofo” offended them. Or was it the three-way with two men and a woman who’s a trans sea cucumber alien? Said editor intoned that, yes, the Lovecraft canon was due for (their phrase) “re-visioning.” But not, apparently by a couple of old cyberpunk Thomas Pynchonian Lovecraft freaks like Paul and me! So much for my pre-visioning of awards—like poor Eddie Poe’s saddening visions of treasure in his “Gold Bug” story.
Well, remember that Weird Tales rejected our man Lovecraft’s “At the Mountains of Madness,” when he wrote it in 1931. He took this badly and was so discouraged that it was only in 1935 that his agent sent the story to Astounding, where the editor F. Orlin Tremaine butchered the text so badly that Lovecraft referred to him as, “that god-damn’d dung of a hyaena.” They gave him a good cover illo, though.
[“ATMOM” in Astounding Stories, 1936]
After his troubles with publishing “At the Mountains of Madness,” H. P. pretty much gave up on writing fiction, and died a few years later. “Eeek!”
So I sent our “Leng” on to the worthy Sheila Williams at Asimov’s and hoped for the best.
April 25, 2017. Yes! Sheila bought it. Enjoy.