Mists of the Miskatonic, by Al Halsey (3:36)

IOD-MiskatonicToday we see that without context, information can push the reader away rather than drawing them in.

What I gleaned about the stories: Beneath the thin veneer of all-too-mundane horror, lurks entirely incomprehensible horror.

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Note: This is a short story collection, so the rules are slightly different from standard Immerse or Die: instead of reading on every time I lose immersion, I stop reading that story and move on to the next one. As usual, I stop reading after the third WTF.

WTF #1: Over-condensed detail

Analysis: The first story opens with: “Augustinus, this desert is killing me,” second in command Prior Lucius Marianus said loudly.

Without any information on the setting or characters other than they are in a desert, the apposition gave me indigestion: was I supposed to focus on him being second-in-command, a prior, or the volume at which he spoke? Is he a prior and second-in-command of something, or is his title second-in-command Prior? Had it been split into two sentences, I would probably have been interested in why a prior was in the desert, but the density of information pushed me out before I was fully in, so I moved on.

WTF #2: Broken rhythm

Analysis: On the second page of the second story, I encountered: ‘He rubbed his temples while the car warmed and he looked down the hill at the city laid out below.’

The second ‘he’ tripped me up. For a moment I wasn’t sure what was wrong, so I reread the sentence and realised it didn’t sound right: everyone I know would omit the second ‘he’ because it isn’t necessary to confirm it is him doing, so having it there throws out the rhythm.

Then the sentence flipped in my head, and I started to wonder if the car warming and him looking down the hill were supposed to be concurrent events while he rubbed his temples; but for that parsing, I would expect a comma after ‘temples’.

Unsure of which meaning the author intended, and with either not really flowing smoothly in my mind, I moved on.

WTF #3: Jagged Techno-babble

Analysis: Two astronauts on the first manned expedition to Mars are having a casual conversation about reaching Mars when one of them says ‘Who knows how many single event upsets we will be cleaning up in the next couple of days, and replacing those nodes after charging.’

Between the lack of context beforehand, and the confusing structure, I juddered to a halt. Re-reading it, I inferred that a single event upset resulted in something having to be charged, and after that thing had been charged some nodes needed replacing; however, without detail of why this was important or what caused upsets, I didn’t really feel involved. So I pulled the plug.

Kudo #1: Not derivative

Analysis: Each story is inspired by a classic HP Lovecraft story, but none of the stories had protagonists named after classic characters, arch street names, clunkily inserted in-jokes, or other signs of an author putting pastiche above storytelling.

Note from Jefferson: I just have to jump in to say “Wow!” about the cover. Very slick.

Take the Pepsi Challenge: Want to know if my own writing measures up? Download one of these free short stories, in the format of your choice, and decide for yourself.

Stranger Worlds than These by L J Cohen (40:00)
THIRTEEN: a collection of 13 dark tales, by Adam Hainline (12:28)

About the author

Dave Higgins has worked in law and IT for both public and private sector organisations. When not pursuing these hobbies, he writes poetry and speculative fiction.

He was born in Wiltshire, England. Raised by a librarian, he started reading shortly after birth and has not stopped since. He currently lives in Bristol with his wife, Nicola, his cats, Jasper and Una, and many shelves of books.