Having fun with a short story snippet that may not be a short story after all. Figured I’d post something I’ve cut since I probably won’t be using much, if any, of it at all in the final version of the story…
Here it is:
There was this game that Terence had continued to play in his head ever since he’d read The Iron Dream, that novel by Norman Spinrad that was supposed to be an SF novel as Hitler would’ve written, if he’d moved to America and become an SF illustrator and author instead of taking over Germany. So… what about other famous people?
Nikolai Tesla? He would’ve cranked out porn books and cheap thrillers, hacking his way through anything that would give people a powerful charge. Winston Churchill would have written Dunsanian fantasy–but with the magical critters psychoanalyzing one another, and then saving the world from Teutonic Ogres–and, occasionally, the stuffiest of romances ever to be written. Lenin would have written baffling crime novels featuring thoughtful emigré detectives, wherein it would often be discovered that the murderer wasn’t just a fat man in a tuxedo smoking a cigar but rather the whole socioeconomic class in whose interests the fat man had acted:
“It was the proletariat,” said Inspector Zhelezo, but only softly, to himself, for his deduction had led him to the understanding that the crime was not the murder, but rather the conditions that had led up to it. Better to forget it all, and walk away, into a night full of smoke, and neon, and the struggle of on mass against another in the shadows. Zhelezo knew the tide was turning, slowly, but in the meantime the decay was deepening with each passing night…
Such books, such fine and strange books he imagined, and he longed to read them.
But there was one literary figure who constantly came to mind when Terence played this game, and that was Ezra Pound, the poet. The fascist nutbag poet who’d worshipped Mussolini and ranted about economics and written probably the most opaque poem in the history of the English language… so opaque that chunks of it weren’t even in English. But if you looked a little closer, Pound could have been the American H.G. Wells. He was a devoted social-creditor, just like Heinlein, and he’d read a ton of the same occult junk that Edgar Rice Burroughs had ripped off for his novels. Hyperborea? That comes up in one of the earliest Cantos. The first one is a scene from the Odyssey, for Christ’s sake–the ur-text for the classic D&D campaign structure.
And Pound was a contemporary of Lovecraft’s, never forget. The two men clearly were shaped by the same readings in classical litetaure. Who doesn’t sense a bit of “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” in Canto II, where Pound retells the tale of Acœtes meeting Bacchus?
Black snout of a porpoise where Lycabs had been, Fish-scales on the oarsmen. And I worship. I have seen what I have seen. When they brought the boy I said: “ He has a god in him, though I do not know which god. “ And they kicked me into the fore-stays. I have seen what I have seen: Medon’s face like the face of a dory, Arms shrunk into fins.... Fish scales over groin muscles, lynx-purr amid sea And of a later year, pale in the wine-red algæ, If you will lean over the rock, the coral face under wave-tinge, Rose-paleness under water-shift, Ileuthyeria, fair Dafne of sea-bords, the swimmer’s arms turned to branches, Who will say in what year, fleeing what band of tritons, The smooth brows, seen, and half seen, now ivory stillness.
Of course, this wasn’t really Pound, it was Pound throwing Ovid’s voice. It was a story from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Acœtes recognizes the child borne unconscious onto the ship as the god Bacchus,and warns the sailors not to mistreat the kid. The sailors scoff, and when the kid wakes up, and tells them he wants to be brought back to Naxos, pronto, they mock him.
So Bacchus reveals himself, his staff sprouting a shit-ton of vines, lynxes–animals sacred to the wine-god–appearing out of nowhere, and the next thing you know, he gets medieval, or rather, he gets classical on their asses, and all the sailors freak out and are turned into dolphins. All except Acœtes, of course, who goes off and becomes a priest of Bacchus, because what the fuck else are you going to do after all that?
And that was to say nothing of Canto I, which was basically a necromantic ritual retold from the Odyssey.
As far as Terence was concerned, Pound and Lovecraft would have made an unstoppable writing duo, cranking out the geek’s equivalent of crack. On second thought, Lovecraft had already written the geek’s equivalent of crack. Lovecraft plus Pound would have done something even more addictive. Meth? Terence frowned. He didn’t know enough to know whether the metaphor was appropriate anymore, he realized, and the crack reference just betrayed his age.