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.