THE DEEP ONES: "The Clockwork King, the Queen of Glass, and the Man with the Hundred Knives" by Darrell Schweitzer
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"The Clockwork King, the Queen of Glass, and the Man with the Hundred Knives" by Darrell Schweitzer
Discussion begins March 22.
First published in Black Wings II: New Tales of Lovecraftian Horror (2012).
SELECTED PRINT VERSIONS
Black Wings II: New Tales of Lovecraftian Horror
Awaiting Strange Gods: Weird and Lovecraftian Fictions
I've got Black Wings II, so this is a Schweitzer I get to read on the printed page.
I ran into some "number of views" issues that caused the above link to the story to not display the text. I got around this (I think) by simply doing a fresh Google search for the story and clicking on the Google Books link from the results list.
It happened to me, and then resolved when I scrolled down and scrolled back up. Odd, to be sure.
Interesting timing on this one - the whole "Wagner looking for Faustus" idea presented here by Schweitzer seems to dovetail quite a bit with what we know of Lovecraft's relationship with his much younger acolyte, Robert Barlow. See this recent New Yorker article:
I wonder if it depends on the device you're using? I have no luck on my Droid, but my workstations will display the text with some fiddling. I'll try to avoid Google Books links in the future unless, as is the case here, it is the only online source available.
Browser may affect your success, as well. I used Chrome both at work and at home, each time from desktop PCs but using different versions of Windows.
My ink-and-paper copy is also called Black Wings of Cthulhu II. The "of Cthulhu" seems to have been added in the 2014 Titan Press edition. Also, the cover art changed to remove Cthulhu!
Beyond Faust and Wagner, literary allusions include the refrain from the opening of Poe's "Tell-Tale Heart":
How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily --how calmly I can tell you the whole story.
I remarked that recurring line, of course, but couldn't name the story. The other recurring line, or perhaps "protestation" would be a better term, is of the narrator's insistence his relationship with Reggie Graham was never homoerotic, not at all. Was this also an allusion?
Third time around for me on this one.
I'm not sure the relationship between Graham and the narrator is so much reminiscent of Lovecraft and Barlow as what Schweitzer calls the "old school chum" plot which uses the dynamic of Faust and Wagner.
I liked how Schweitzer mixed a portal fantasy, an interesting and a bit steampunkish fantasy world (complete with protecting hero with magic ring) with Poe and a contemplation about fantasy's place in our lives.
Third time around, though, I'm thinking that however much the narrator insists there wasn't a sexual relationship with Graham maybe the narrator wanted there to be. He does protest about it way too much. Once would have been enough. I wonder if the narrator hoped for some version of the wise, sophisticate, older man (though not that much older here) tutoring him in al the ways of the world.
Agreed about "maybe the narrator wanted there to be." He's a confessedly unreliable narrator, and I very much liked the multiple endings tactic.
There was more than a dollop of "fairy weird" here, with the portal fantasy elements and the unseen royalty.
The narrator points out that time flows differently in the different worlds. Is the implication that in the time Graham takes for his single and final skirmish, the narrator lives out his life? Or is the final encounter with Graham a separate fight with his enemies, and that he survived the earlier skirmish only to die in this later one?
Agreed on the narrator protesting entirely too much on the homoerotic front.
I thought this one was a little too vague about what was going on. Not only are there multiple versions of what happened, those versions are decidedly hazy. That's not to say I disliked the story, but I didn't like it as much as previous Schweitzer reads.
Agreed also about the fairyness - the Clockwork King and his kingdom sounds like they'd be right at home in a fairytale.
In the context of Awaiting Strange Gods this one worked for me as just one of a series of variations on the themes of "old school chum" and indeed "awaiting strange gods" - part of a greater whole.
In isolation, I had some of the reservations already made, that it was too vague to be be really clear what the point of it was. It could be a non-fantastical story of repressed feelings and distorted memories; or one where an initially attractive steampunk-ish fantasy world is exposed as a malevolent faeryland (the dangerous one of European folklore) or worse, the Lovecraftian ultimate chaos...either way it's bad news for dreamers. If I didn't know who wrote it, I might have imagined it was by an author with no time for Fantasy.
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