Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Is There an African Mythos-Lovecraft Mythos Connection?

May years ago when researching a story I was writing that took place within the Lovecraft Mythos, I came across mention of a book written by Samuel K. D. Dikaniakina, an indigenous Christian pastor residing in Kenya. Within its pages, he wrote extensively of the cult of water spirits so common in African tribal religions.

Contacting him directly, he graciously sent me a copy of his book. Though I eventually canned the story I was planning, I read Dikaniakina's book cover to cover to discover some intriguing parallels between the book and H. P. Lovecraft's story, The Shadow Over Innsmouth.

When Christianity entered Kenya, it came to a continent where the indigenous religions possessed a multitude of ancient water-spirit traditions. Most African Christians imported their native belief in water spirits into their new faith, but now saw them as demonic entities. What follows are a list of parallels I have found between one of Lovecraft's most famous works as well as the worldview in Identifying The Dark Sources of the Aquatic World.

Shadow Over Innsmouth Dark Sources of the Aquatic World
Ancient beings "The Deep Ones" reside in water Ancient beings "Mami Wata(1)" reside in water
They are both male and female They are predominantly female, but males exist
They desire to mate with humans They desire to mate with humans
Progeny are hybrid monsters Progeny are hybrid monsters
They reward obedient humans with great wealth They reward obedient humans with great wealth
They live in vast underwater cities They live in eight vast underwater cities
Cities are physical and can be destroyed,
and will most likely outlast humanity
Cities are not considered to be in our reality,
but will one day all be destroyed.
They worship Cthulhu and other "deities." They worship Dagon and other deities.
Though acting benign they are inherently evil Though acting benign they are inherently evil

So seeing the parallels, one logically wonders if Lovecraft knew about the African mythology of water spirits and used it as an inspiration for his own tale or did Lovecraft invent his stories out of whole cloth and the parallels merely demonstrate serendipity?

I have posited the question to a group of Mythos aficionados and experts and asked them to post their answers below. Their observations should be quite intriguing.

If you are interested in doing your own research, Samuel K. D. Dikaniakina's book is not available on or through the Internet. However, he does extensively quote a Nigerian pastor by the name of Debo Daniel. Debo's book, The Water Spirit Kingdom, is available for free here.

(1) Other names other than "Mami Wata" are used for these beings depending on the country of origin.

PS: No, you cannot have my copy. This is like owning my own personal edition of the Cthäat Aquadingen and I will hold on to it.

Friday, February 10, 2017

What I HATE About Writing

My purpose for writing is only to entertain. I have no desire to change anybody's worldview or take up a cause. I despise stories that are bully pulpits and I have vowed never to write one. My ultimate goal is to draw my readers into a world of my creation with prose and characters and story so poignant and powerful that when they reach the words, The End, they feel as if they were waking from a dream.

And writing a story is very much like building a house. When you look at a residence, you are seeing the entire structure, not the individual elements that go to making up the whole. But if you have an orange brick in a wall of red ones, it will stand out, jarring the aesthetics. If the foundation is composed of sand, the entire structure is unsteady. A simple single element can destroy the whole.

A story is something similar to building a house. It is composed of paragraphs that are composed of sentences that are composed of phrases that are composed of words. If one element is off, it can harm the entire work.

And I have discovered that the more I write, even when churning out dreck, the better I become simply because writing is like a muscle. The more I use it, the stronger the prose.

Take for instance my story, The Shrine War. Currently it's for sale as part of Fred Patten's anthology, Dogs of War. Now do not misunderstand. I am deeply grateful that The Shrine War was accepted for publication. Heck, I'm thrilled to the core when Fred even acknowledges my existence.

Yet, after submitting the story I kept going back to the tale and revisiting my Kitsune, wise Sen, naive Hoso, and proud Chiyu and their struggle with the doomed Inugami driven by rage.

And this is what I hate about writing. I gave Fred the best I could do, but I shudder to think of seeing my story in print.

I see things. I see where a superfluous word clouds the meaning of a phrase, where a misplaced word communicates something other than my original meaning. I find sentences where the addition or elimination of a single word can make it sing where it used to grunt.

The more I learn, the more dissatisfied I am with my past offerings. I cannot read my anthologies, because to see my amateur scrawlings makes me cringe. Sen and her fellow Kitsune deserve the best that the art of wordsmithing can muster and the art of storytelling is a deep well of which I have only mastered a teaspoon.

But I will continue to write. I will master the art even though it took me 62 years to come this far. And though I fear the grave will find me before I come to a place where I can be happy with something I have written, I will strive for greater mastery.

I have revisited The Shrine War again and continued the subtle art of revision and editing. Someday, I hope to share it with you as part of a collection along with The Inugami, my current work in progress, and the humorous short, Hoso's First Day.

But even then, will my offering be perfect? Probably not. Though the cost of never being satisfied is the one aspect of writing I hate, my love of entertaining you is much stronger.

I've got great things planned, so hang on. It's gonna be a fun ride.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Winter Tales from the Blizzards of 2015 and 2016

I own a personal Facebook page and as some use their personal accounts to bemoan their lot in life, I use mine to practice writing humor. What follows are two posts written during the blizzards of 2015 and 2016. Be aware I have a tendency to exaggerate a little.

Written on January 24, 2015 at 1:16pm

I made a huge mistake yesterday by shopping at the local supermarket when the forecast called for snow. The place was packed with people struggling to buy enough toilet paper, milk and other staples to last them the next three months.

While I was looking at green onions, one woman stopped me and said, “Please sir. May I have that last tomato? My children are starving. They’re all orphans you know.”

Blinking in confusion I assured her she could have the last tomato, but I did tell her that what she was pointing at was actually a coconut. Grabbing her loot, she turned to the next man and pointed at a turnip and begging him for the “last apple” and going on about her orphaned children.

The next aisle was where they kept the cereal and as it was filled with about 100 people reenacting The Hunger Games. I just kept moving.

The next aisle had reverted to trench warfare, air raid sirens, tins of canned meat being hurled across no man’s land, and somebody screaming for a medic.

Quickly pushing my cart to the dairy aisle, I simply stared in shock and horror. I cannot bear to put down in words what I saw, but what you’re imagining now? It was infinitely worse. In panic, I abandoned my cart and fled for the exit.

Making my way to the parking lot, a woman in front of me and carrying at least 20 plastic bags of groceries was unaware of the rutabaga that had bounced out and rolled to my feet.

The little old lady from the vegetable aisle miraculously appeared plucking at my coat sleeve. “Good sir,” she asked in that wheedling voice. “May I have that orange? I have dozens of orphaned children.”

I picked up the rutabaga, looked her straight in the eye and without hesitation said, “No.”

Now I am home where my family enjoys cabinets that were already filled with goods as well as a well-stocked refrigerator and freezer already filled even before the news of snow. And though we could feast like royalty, just for spite, for lunch today we shall all feast on one well-steamed rutabaga.

Written on January 24, 2016 at 11:57am

Having been trapped inside our house since Friday evening, my son, Jared, and I braved the aftermath of the storm and decided to make the mile long hike to the new Rutter's Convenience Store at the Rt. 15 Exit.

Battling our way through packs of hungry, snow blind coyotes and neighbors crazed with cabin fever, we reached our objective armed only with Jared's 8-dollar pocket knife and our indomitable spirits.

Unfortunately, Rutter's was overrun with people raiding the store for milk and bread as everybody knows the only sustenance that can get you through a blizzard is milk-soaked bread or, barring that, milk-soaked toilet paper.

Jared has left me behind as he does not want to be saddled with a crippled old man who moves at the speed of molasses in January. So here I sit in Rutter's cafe typing out this final missive before making the long, dangerous trek home.

If you hear nothing more of me, I'm coyote kibble.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Would You Dare To Go Inside?

Ignoring old Hollywood cliches, I would, with great delight, stride through the door, grab whatever awaited me by the throat and whisper two little words:

"I'm home."

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Inugami: The Opening Scene

Events in The Inugami run concurrently with the events in The Shrine War. In The Inugami, American Kelly Robbins moves to Tokyo for language studies at the University. Renting an apartment in the Motoyawata neighborhood, she discovers the crawlspace is inhabited by an unfriendly Inugami, a yokai in the form of an anthropomorphic dog left behind by a previous resident, an evil Taoist sorcerer.

What follows is a very rough draft and may be radically different from the finished story.

The Inugami
by Alan Loewen

Kelly nodded at the real estate agent who held the front door open for her. Carefully removing her shoes as was the Japanese custom, she wrinkled her nose at the the smell of an old house unused. Underneath the aroma of mold, came the smell of something else, like a faulty sewer line.

The Japanese real estate agent was a bubbly personality and immediately launched into her spiel. “The house has been on the market for some time,” she said, “but I think it would be perfect for you.”

Suddenly, as if on cue, the house vibrated with the roar overhead of a jet engine as it came in low over the roof. The agent smiled nervously. “It is located closely to the Narita International Airport so you won’t have to travel far when you revisit the United States, yes?”

Kelly smiled back. “I lived under the flight path of the Charlotteville-Albermarle Airport,” she said calmly. “It will be just like home.” Kelly kept her face expressionless, wanting to laugh at the sudden look of relief on the agent’s face. “And the Metro?”

Once again, the agent slipped into her programmed sales pitch. “Just eight minutes away with a brisk walk,” she said. “The Tozai line will connect you to the Chiyoda line and you can walk to the University from either the Nezu or Yoshima stations.”

The agent gracefully slid open a door to show a large, furnished living room. “There is also an eat-in kitchen, a combination bedroom and study and the bathroom has a shower.” She wrinkled her nose. “With a little airing out it will be perfect for you and at 70,000 yen a month, it’s very affordable.”

Kelly looked around the spacious room. It was not that she was going to be spending a lot of her time here. Her responsibilities at the University as well as her studies basically meant she just needed a place to sleep and eat breakfast and dinner. “Is the upstairs apartment rented? Are there neighbors?”

“No, the upstairs needs to be refurbished, but the workmen only come during the day when you will most likely be at school.” The smile never left the agent’s face. “Motoyawata is a quiet neighborhood.”

Again, the house shook as a jet soared overhead.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The Best of the Best

I've been enjoying my blog for almost two years now so here are links to what I consider the best of the best.

Enjoy and thank you for letting me entertain you.

First, four samples of sophomoric humor at its best:
  1. The Detective, The Dame, The Diamond, and the Dog
  2. Paranormal Romance? Let Me Give It A Shot.
  3. The Psalter of Saint Brumphrey the Unstable
  4. Trekking With My Mother Through The Kohl’s Bra Aisle
And finally, three observations that sometimes causes me to pause and wonder if I am writing dark fantasy fiction or simply reporting reality:
  1. The Woman Who Carries Her Dead 
  2. There Is A Place... 
  3. The Man Who Loved A Doll: A Parable

Grey Ghost and Doom Storm Reminisce

Grey Ghost and Doom Storm Reminisce
by Alan Loewen

"Oh, dear. Look at the time. I'm so sorry to have taken up so much of it."

"No problem. I always enjoy your visits, and my goodness, the time surely has flown. Well, you know the old cliché about time flying when you are having fun."

"Yes, yes. Nonetheless, thank you so much for the trip down memory lane. We have had some adventures together."

"Quite. Quite. I'll still never forget the time you almost destroyed New York City with that warp bomb. That was quite a challenge."

"Oh, come, come. You're flattering me now. I'm convinced you had that under control from the first moment."

"We'll, let me tell you a secret, my old friend. You really had me worried there for awhile. That genetically mutated pit bull that you had guarding the thing gave me quite a nasty turn."

"Really? You're not just kidding me now? That big mutt actually gave you a run for the money?"

"Yes, he did, and I don't want to see that posted to the Internet. In fact, let me tell you the truth. Of all the bad guys I fought in my 40 years in the superhero biz, you were always the most challenging. Whenever, the police called me and told me Doom Storm was on the loose, I knew I was in for a fight."

"That is so kind of you to say. And since we're reminiscing, I'll tell you that whenever I heard it was the Grey Ghost hot on my trail, I confess I felt sort of proud."

"And now here we both sit in a nursing home. Being in this wheelchair, I couldn't chase you now if my life depended on it."

"And I wouldn't get very far with this walker, but I hope you don't mind if I leave you a parting gift. I put a bomb under your seat."

"Ho, ho, ho! You rascal, you! I'll bet I defuse it before you toddle out the door."

"Well, if I don't see you in the cafeteria, I'll know you failed, and I got the final say."

"And if I do defuse it, I get your dessert."

“Almost like old times, Grey Ghost.”

“Almost, Doom Storm. Almost.”