Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Episodic Adventures

In the "American Gothic" story line of Alan Moore's Swamp Thing (1985-'86), the title character plant elemental successively encounters several major horror fiction themes:

a werewolf;
a serial killer, "the bogeyman";

So far, unoriginal but there is a double point to this sequence:

first, the author creatively re-imagines each of these familiar ideas;

secondly, they build up to a horror beyond them all, in this case the conjuring of the Original Darkness that was before the Creation.

Poul Anderson had used the same technique thirty two years earlier in Three Hearts And Three Lions (London, 1977; first published, 1953). The hero of this novel successively fights:

an animated suit of armour;
a dragon;
a giant;
a werewolf;
what else? (I am still rereading.)

And these episodic battles build up to a major attack by Chaos on the Law of which our hero is the Defender.

(In Swamp Thing, the Darkness rises out of the Chaos beyond Hell and advances against the Light, even fomenting civil war between demons preferring the Devil they know and those welcoming ultimate darkness.)

I mentioned the dragon and the giant in the previous post. Anderson continues his scientific approach with the werewolf:

"...lycanthropy was probably inherited as a set of recessive genes." (p. 83)

Someone with a full set of genes will be killed as a wolf in the cradle.

"With an incomplete inheritance, the tendency to change was weaker." (p. 84)

A woods dwarf can follow the scent of a werebeast in its animal form:

"Holger wondered if glandular secretions were responsible." (pp. 86-87)

And, when the suspects have been reduced to four, Holger applies detective techniques to identify the shape-changer.

(By contrast, Alan Moore uses his werewolf story to raise some feminist issues.)

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