Thursday, August 30, 2018


Been almost a year since I read any recent (written, say, post-1400) fiction.  Lucked into a recommendations thread of "modern metahorror" though, and I've been... enjoying? it so far.  Lovecraftian themes (man is a blind and tiny thing, unable to perceive/process the true nature of the universe and the things in it), but reframed for a secular age.  Man vs nature in the limit, not man vs man or man vs evil.  The Antimemetics Division was a good opener (the first story arc anyway - second was OK, definitely skip the third).  Now on to Watt's Blindsight.  Excellent job conveying protagonist's disorientation to the reader via fractured structure and unfriendliness in naming / reference (and maybe weird variations in font size?).  The reader is left to guess a lot and it works for the theme of the piece.

But that's not what compelled me to post.  This is:

Light from below.


You'd think that would have made it easier. Our kind has always feared the dark; for millions of years we huddled in caves and burrows while unseen things snuffled and growled—or just waited, silent and undetectable—in the night beyond. You'd think that any light, no matter how meager, might strip away some of the shadows, leave fewer holes for the mind to fill with worst imaginings.
You'd think.
We followed the grunt [combat drone] down into a dim soupy glow like blood-curdled milk. At first it seemed as though the atmosphere itself was alight, a luminous fog that obscured anything more than ten meters distant. An illusion, as it turned out; the tunnel we emerged into was about three meters wide and lit by rows of raised glowing dashes—the size and approximate shape of dismembered human fingers—wound in a loose triple helix around the walls. We'd recorded similar ridges at the first site, although the breaks had not been so pronounced and the ridges had been anything but luminous.
"Stronger in the near-infrared," Bates reported, flashing the spectrum to our HUDs. The air would have been transparent to pit vipers. It was transparent to sonar: the lead grunt sprayed the fog with click trains and discovered that the tunnel widened into some kind of chamber seventeen meters further along. Squinting in that direction I could just make out subterranean outlines through the mist. I could just make out jawed things, pulling back out of sight.
"Let's go," Bates said.
We plugged in the grunts, left one guarding the way out. Each of us took another as a guardian angel on point. The machines spoke to our HUDs via laser link; they spoke to each other along stiffened lengths of shielded fiberop that unspooled from the hub trailing in our wake. It was the best available compromise in an environment without any optima. Our tethered bodyguards would keep us all in touch during lone excursions around corners or down dead ends.
Yeah. Lone excursions. Forced to either split the group or cover less ground, we were to split the group. We were speed-cartographers panning for gold.
Now that's how you open an old-school, high-bodycount future-dungeon-crawl on a Big Dumb Object.  Man.

I really should've used fog in my dungeons.  Good way to limit vision after the party has magical solutions to darkness, provides a use for gust of wind during exploration.


  1. Is the list publicly available? And how does it define "metahorror"? Quick google searches primarily reveal a 90s horror anthology of mixed repute.

  2. - no definition of metahorror given. Having read more of it, Gig Economy was OK but very directly an homage to Lovecraft (and I don't think it will age well). Suicide Mortgage was a bit silly. I've probably had my fill of this flavor of science fiction for a while.