John Horner Jacobs’ novel, Southern Gods, is like The Muppets.
Yes, the one with Jason Segel. Just with more tentacles. And mind-blasting things from beyond.
Let me explain.
Southern Gods is an intense story of the Cthulhu Mythos, bringing it into the mid-twentieth century. Unlike Lovecraft (or many imitators), Jacobs does not need to rely on the weight of dense multisyllabic adjective-laden clauses. His writing is dark and evocative, drawing you into the lush landscape of the American South. It is Jacobs’ skill with words that gives the story its strength.
Even though it incorporates some of my least favorite elements of the Derleth Mythos… and that’s what made me think of Segel’s Muppet reboot.
For many – myself among them – August Derleth is both hero and villain. Derleth (nearly single-handedly) is responsible for Lovecraft’s work being known today. At the same time, Derleth’s reframing the Mythos into a duality dulled the sharp existential dread that Lovecraft initially evoked.
And the Muppets… well, the Muppets. It almost seemed like they were gone forever, didn’t it? That the sharp wit (go back and watch the original Muppet Show) and deep heart had been turned into sight gags and just showing up on Sesame Street. There were some regrettable choices made.
And then The Muppets came out. It acknowledged the bad and the good, and simply rolled with it all. It acknowledged the tropes and cliches, the strengths and weaknesses, and created something new… that somehow was the same as the original.
That’s what John Horner Jacobs does with Southern Gods. While acknowledging the good – and bad – of the Mythos, he manages to synthesize and transform it all into something that recognizes everything that has come before…but still evokes the same feelings for me as the original Mythos.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to write “The Muppets Take R’lyeh”.