Saturday, June 02, 2018

Book: H.P.G.Wodecraft

Scream for Jeeves: A Parody by D.H.Cannon, Illustrated by J.C.Eckhardt, Wodecraft Press, 1994

Provenance: Brain Thomsen, head of the book department at TSR back in the day, lent me a copy of this in the mid-90s. I enjoyed it a great deal, and after I returned it, I kept my eyes out for a copy. Never found one. It was one of these small press, single printings, and never saw it again (apparently, there is a Kindle reprint, because of course there is). In any event my colleague Sacnoth turned up with a copy he was giving away. He had gotten it from a colleague who was cleaning up his library, and my good old chum Sacky had gotten a spare. And because I was the first to speak up, I got the copy (beating out Stan! for it).

Review: So how does it stand up after 20 years? OK. This was put together back in the age when mash-ups (as the kids are calling them nowadays) were pretty much the domain of fandom. The book itself is a series of well-known Lovecraft tails retold with Bertie Wooster as the protagonist. And they are surprisingly good, in that way that cheese and fish are not supposed to go together, but sometimes they are delish.

H.P. Lovecraft wrote a particular style of story: florid in style and nihlistic in outlook, his protagonists rarely survived their brush with the unflinching, uncaring, overpowering mythos. P.G. Wodehouse wrote another particular style of story - light, comedic, well-mannered and veddy, veddy British. Wodehouse's best-known protagonist was Bertrand ("Bertie") Wilberforce Wooster, a well-meaning specimen of the upper class who regularly gets himself in a mess and who is saved regularly by his valet, Jeeves. So how do these worlds collide?

Not badly at all. The world is Lovecraft's, but the viewpoint is Wodehouse's. And in the three stories, Bertie just misses the worst of the eldritch horrors that inhabit the Lovecraftian universe, usually through the efforts of Jeeves, but just as often through his own thick-headed nature. So he remains blithely ignorant of much of the proceedings, as well as their dire, cosmic content.

There are three stories in the volume, plus an essay. Knowledge of the Cthulian canon is an aid, since they are based on three of Lovecraft's tales.  "The Rats in the Walls" transfers into "Rats, Cats, and Bertie Wooster". "Cool Air"  becomes "Something Feotid". And "The Rummy Affair of Young Charlie" should be a Wodehousterized "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward" but instead takes the protagonist of that tale and drops him into the plot of "The Music of Erich Zann", with a dash of Sherlock Holmes from "The Last Bow". References to Faulty Towers, Arthur Machen, and other Lovecraftian tales also abound, so that if you are an invested fan of an these, you will find the Easter eggs abounding. All the tales are illustrated in a 1920s style by J.C.Eckhard which both the flavor of Lovecraft and of Wodehouse and would be suitable for either Weird Tales or Milady's Boudoir.

Lastly in the volume is an essay seeking to tie together Lovecraft, Wodehouse, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, which is a hit and miss affair. Cannon can line up two of his subjects on any point he seeks to make, but the third always seems to be a tough fit. The great connection that I see, years later, is that the three authors have enjoyed a posthumous life through their creations, particularly in the gaming field. Lovecraft's creations thrive on the gaming shelves including a Holmesian adventure in the early Cthulhu by Gaslight set. Holmes himself lives on through a variety of remakes, reinventions, adaptations, lost stories, further adventures. And I have have created characters who bring the Code of the Woosters to the Realms (Giogi Wyvernspur and Tertius Wands) as well as placed a facsimile of the Drones Club in a Baker Street RPG. The inventions of these three creators continue to inspire, and the nature of the worlds they present are ripe fields for future creation.

More later,