“I pledge my infinite spirit to speak the truth; may the Sleeping Gods strike me down should I lie… Yes, I understand the charges: Unlawful Necromancy and Abominable Parricide in breach of the King’s Law. I plead innocent due to the extraordinary circumstances. If it pleases the court, I should like to read a statement in my defense.”
Rights to my novelette of cosmic horror, The Squirming, Scarlet Madness, reverted last year, allowing me to publish it as an independent author on Amazon. It is also available through the Society of Misfit Stories anthology, as detailed in this earlier post.
The story is in part unabashed Lovecraft pastiche, so if that’s not your cup of tea, no worries. I say “in part” with reason, as there are some differences between it and other Mythos-inspired tales. Among these is an Earth-like setting complete with automobiles, shotguns, and telephones—yet it isn’t Earth. As that might puzzle some, I’ll elaborate.
One of the grand conceits of my Astral Diadem setting is a universe broad enough to encompass everything from epic fantasy to space opera. Somewhere between those two poles are modern worlds similar to our own Earth. The planet of Kammanth fills that role: a place both familiar yet strange. It’s a funhouse mirror of our own world, a jumping off point to even stranger destinations.
In science fiction terms, Kammanth evolves into the homeworld of humanity, and—after the events of certain as-yet-unwritten or unpublished stories and novels—rises as an important member of the interstellar Association. The latter is the same interstellar government depicted in “The Eater of Stars” and others.
In epic fantasy terms, the planet served as a prehistoric stage for grandiose battles among mortals, giants, dragons, and gods. The setting’s name “Astral Diadem” refers to a prehistoric linkage of interrelated worlds through advanced technomancies lost long ago during the fall of the Astral Empire, if not before.
But knowledge of this past is mostly forgotten, repurposed into mythology, theology, and dubious theories about prehuman history. My earliest fantasy work—the obligatory D&D-Tolkien pastiche phase—documents parts of this era with inspired unoriginality.
Between those two stages, Kammanth evolved as any society would. Its quasi-medieval past lingers in its religion, history, and iconography, but after a long period as a fantasy world, it underwent a scientific revolution. It discovered gunpowder, the printing press, electricity, steam power, and the other accouterments of technology.
Magic and monsters didn’t vanish overnight, but they dwindled into a supernatural underground, almost never glimpsed. The people of Kammanth in the 1380s are obsessed with television, sports, sex, primitive computers, and the looming shadow of thanatomic war. The tech side of the magitek equation is in the ascendant in this particular slice of timespace.
Yet beyond the stars, non-terrestrial creatures of a scope undreamed of float and gibber through the polymorphous lattice of different realities, macrocosmic entities that we might know by another name but within the Astral Diadem are called the Ungods.
Thus, bits and pieces of this world’s demon-haunted past can still bubble to the surface. Amid the crumbling, gambrel-roofed villages of a down-and-out province like the Old Demesne, a region inhabited by a glum and taciturn, anti-modernist religious minority, the fabric between realities can wear thin.
Here, high strangeness might linger at a crossroads or congeal in musty old books concealed for decades behind rotting plaster. The inner psychological world blends with the outer material one, fiction merges with reality, myth with physicality.
A fleeting encounter with a transcendent supernatural can leave one breathless with awe and wonder—or shriveled in terror, clutching the wooden stock of a shotgun.
That I hope provides some context for The Squirming, Scarlet Madness.1