Cthulhu Doesn’t Dance, by Justin MacCormack (3:06)

IOD-CthuluDoesntDanceToday we meet a book that claimed all the errors had been removed. Guess what happened.

What I gleaned about the stories: Mind-shredding cosmic horror lurks with limbs flailing and mouths twitching, beneath the thin veneer of the mundane; but only if you go looking for it.

Find this book on Amazon.

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.

Note 2: The copyright page contains a section stating the book has been thoroughly edited to remove any flaws and errors. While I applaud the use of an editor, telling me there were no errors primed my mind to assess the truth of the statement.

Note from Jefferson: I just gotta chime in here to say how much I love that title.

WTF #1: Basic grammar error

Analysis: A couple of paragraphs into the author biography, I encountered His hobbies include classic cinema, photography, and roleplaying games (of which he plays and runs regularly).

The construction ‘of which’ expresses a subset of a class, so I expected the parenthesis to be about some of the games he played: for example, …of which his favourite is Bunnies and Burrows; so the second half, being about games in general, threw me.

While I would have forgiven the ambiguity caused by the lack of a ‘both’, I was only seconds from being told the book had no errors, so moved on.

WTF #2: Confusing punctuation

Analysis: Just over a page into the introduction, I met the following sentence(s):

In the Lovecraftian mythos, the titular Yellow Sign acts as a symbol of the ancient Hastur, Of all the deity-monsters of the mythos, Hastur is perhaps the most elusive and the one clouded in the most obfuscation, but his influences remain perpetually mysterious.

I hit the comma followed by capital, and parsed it as a comma-for-full-stop error. However, the following few words also worked as the start of a sub-clause applying to Hastur, so I lost my certainty; until I hit the following comma and finally knew the preceding comma should indeed have been a full stop. My understanding of what the error was having shifted twice in a brief period, but the fact of an error remaining constant, I shook off my whiplash and moved on.

WTF #3: Subject confusion

Analysis: On the first page of a story, I found: I lived in Portsmouth, once proclaimed as the greatest naval city on England’s south coast, but in recent decades certain natural erosion had taken place.

Hitting the first comma, I began to parse an aside about Portsmouth. Hitting the second, I assumed the aside was over and returned to parsing the subject as the narrator. I therefore expected the main clause to continue the theme of the narrator’s living in Portsmouth; perhaps, I lived in Portsmouth… but in recent decades certain natural erosion had made me reconsider.

Feeling mildly confused by the abrupt ending, I wondered if the narrator was talking about past events, i.e. he used to live in Portsmouth until the erosion happened. However, the story was written in the perfect tense, so events prior to the story would be correctly expressed either in the pluperfect (I had lived).

Neither interpretation working, I pulled the plug.

Kudo #1: Leaving things to the reader

Analysis: Mythos fiction can be divided (very approximately) into fiction that focuses on the known tropes of the Mythos (famous names, evil fishmen living in underwater cities, and such) and those that focus on the theme of cosmic dread. Although each has their charms, the second is both potentially truer to Lovecraft’s original vision and definitely more unnerving. While I haven’t read the whole collection, MacCormack’s attempt to make the Mythos something the reader finds if they look encourages me to continue.

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.

Commitment and Other Tales of Madness by Glen Krisch (1:12)
Hidden Pictures by Angela Castillo (4:14)

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.