Pseudopod 106: Jihad over Innsmouth

By Edward Morris

Read by Ben Phillips

A cold, black, liquescent fear laps at the edges of my heart as I approach the first gate in the long Caliph’s Maze of Airport Security. Some darker force is trying to sway me unobtrusively away, to make me renege my retainer’s oath, cut my losses and run headlong to South America with the dwindling remains of my bank account.

Should I die on my quest, a first-class seat in Paradise awaits me.
In my time, I have lived through every hell Shaitan could possibly devise right here on Earth, moving behind newspaper headlines which even Al-Jazeera fears to run. Enquiring minds want to know, but some truths are better left to the darkness at the center of the universe, to be drowned out by the skirlings of the blind piper and his retinue of idiot flute-players..

September 5th, 2008 1:30 am

whats the name/title of the book series you mention at the ending, charles strauss?

September 5th, 2008 8:01 am

This was an AWSOME story. Nice twist to help us confront popular US stereotypes. Wicked

September 5th, 2008 11:52 am

Edward, you the bomb in Murky Depths, yo!Seriously, great story, man. Very thrilling and out of the ones I’ve read by you, it’s easily my favorite.

And another great reading by Ben.

Good stuff all around.

September 5th, 2008 7:14 pm

Hooray! Something in the vein of “Delta Green”! I was actually surprised that this appears to have a positive outcome in a battle against the elder Dark… This was definitely a quick and fun story that grabbed me and carried me all the way through a long afternoon. Thanks!

September 5th, 2008 10:57 pm

Superb. I always like the stories that seek to explode some stereotypes — and this one did so while almost exploding an airplane.

September 5th, 2008 10:59 pm

Interesting story, Cthulhu and terrorism may not have been what Lovecraft had in mind but it is a good way to modernize the mythos. Story seems to fall into the fragment category.

Overall, good but not great.

September 6th, 2008 7:46 am

Nice story, I like all the Cthulhu Mythos stories.
I hope there will be more podcasts in this genre.
I agree with David, Good but not Great.
Keep the podcasts coming!

Good luck with the site,

September 6th, 2008 10:16 pm

A sufi assasin aganist Lovecraftian horrors? Brilliant! One of the best Cthulhu stories I’ve heard (or read) for a while. Very darned entertaining.

September 7th, 2008 1:45 pm

This was my very first Cthulhu Mythos stab. I’ve read Lovecraft since age 5 (started for the pictures, stayed for all the great words like ‘Cyclopean’ and ‘gibbous’ and ‘glabrous’.)

Thank you all, very kindly and sincerely. It was a real shot in the arm to see all your comments. I am so very glad this found another good home. Ben’s hilarious read and Alasdair’s astute commentary were an honor to be part of.

Despite his environmental case of racism, Lovecraft had a lot of heart as a fantasist. If he’d actually known any people of other races who weren’t domestics or street people, I think he might have looked across the aisle at this one and possibly gotten it.

With all the outright anti-Islamic malevolence that has even touched our humble field of SF/H, it’s nice to get a reminder that we’re all in the same skin and we’re all fighting the same enemies in the final analysis, no matter what any of us look like or how we worship God. All the rest is just a tired con.

September 7th, 2008 1:45 pm

And please forego the extra W in my first name. It’s silent.

September 7th, 2008 9:35 pm

Great story; nice stereotype overthrow and S. King allusion.

September 8th, 2008 9:17 pm

At first I was like, “Oh damn, another trendy terrorist story,” but the sci fi elements saved this one for me. I was still kind of annoyed by the constant allusion to the protagonist’s religion, though. I’m pretty sure most Christians– even the fundies– don’t go around constantly bringing up Christian-God in their thoughts and referring to people of other faiths as ‘false prophets.’ There are a lot of non-intense Muslims in the world, too– casual Muslims– even though a lot of them have come out of oppressive theocratic regimes.

The story itself was fine, though.

September 9th, 2008 1:29 am

Just had to donate again. This story kicked so much ass. I’ve really enjoyed the pod since Ben took over.

September 9th, 2008 1:32 am

@John that’s Charles Stross and his Laundry series (The Atrocity Archives and The Jennifer Morgue).

Andy C
September 9th, 2008 11:43 am

This was a frogman bashing highlight! I enjoyed this immensely. The whole pseudopod team does great things and in particular Al’s intros and outros always compliment the story well. Plus I don’t think I’ve ever heard a bad reading on this feed. One day I too shall speak with the same gravitas. injects testosterone smokes gravel

September 9th, 2008 11:51 pm

Wow… a most welcome reinvigoration of Pseudopod after (in my opinion) a couple of very slow weeks. Loved the narrative structure and numerous in-jokes for Lovecraft junkies (the Pickman Galleries, etc). Great work.

September 10th, 2008 1:13 pm

A completely brilliant story — total success here for the writer, and Pseudopod.

I don’t necessarily agree with the author’s personal stance in this case, which if I understand him right, seems to suggest that all differences in behavior and faith should be overlooked simply because we’re all in the same boat. I don’t buy it. There are people out there that twist their faith into a justification for blowing up clinics, buildings, and murdering the innocent. Such activities can’t be ignored.

But we can save that debate for another time :)

I do heartily respect and am humbled by the artful way he turns a stereotype on its side and exposes the fleshy underbelly for us all to stare at. This story manages to be gripping, challenging, funny, and poignant. I cared about the protagonist from the moment he showed up, and found the villains stark and sufficiently disgusting.

Nice work! By the way, folks — you’ll see this kind of stuff in Murky Depths all the time if you give them a shot!

Kevin B.
September 12th, 2008 10:35 am

I loved this story. I was intriguied by the title when I saw it appear in the download and wondered if it would be at typical take on Lovecraft. Very pleasantly surprised it was not. I thought it was a great way to approach the topic from a completly different angle. Kudos.

September 12th, 2008 12:01 pm

Wow, one of the best pseudopods I’ve ever heard!!!

September 13th, 2008 4:09 pm

I really enjoyed it!

I don’t know if it was intentional, but the protagonist, a religious fanatic, really played off the Dagon worshipers well.

Also, I got a little confused during the hijacking scene, it wasn’t very clear what was going on.
And the ending did seem a bit abrupt.
This could have very easily been a great novel.

But it was very well written and descriptive, it had me enthralled.
The description of the frogmen gave me the chills.

Anyway, I really loved it!

September 14th, 2008 2:51 pm

I liked this a lot. An arabic protagonist, we don’t see that much. You really have to know your pop culture to get all the references. A Dagonist televangelist – why not, there are some pretty wacky preachers on late night cable TV. Even some sympathy for Dagon worshipers. Would you want a nuclear sub with a leaking reactor dumped in your back yard?

September 16th, 2008 10:15 pm

Wow, awesome story!!! Mind-bending Cyberpunk, Cthulhu Now, classic horror remix. 10/10

Lovecraft Fan
September 17th, 2008 9:16 am

Stephen King hires Arab assassin to whack Dagon? Awesome!!!

Loved this story and how it updates the Cthulu mythos into the modern day. Innsmouth, Arkham, Kingsport, Dunwich — they could all “hide” in 30s before highways and the Internet. The idea that not only would the followers of Dagon reveal themselves, but set up a mega-church, is a great one.

And that they would hijack a plane for the perceived injustices done to them in the name of religion? Brilliant.

I thought the kid who helps the main character was a bit too deus ex machina, but will forgive it for how much fun this story was for horror nerds like me.

And thanks to Pseudopod for introducing me to Joel Arnold and now Edward Norris. Definitely going to find more of his stuff.

September 18th, 2008 5:11 pm

I’m glad I’m not the only one who caught on to the Stephen King reference, for a while there I was wondering if this was a stab at the author, or if it was a tribute, but when I put two and two together (admittedly I was slow, I don’t read as much Lovecraft as King), I thought it was a brilliant touch. Well done, an unusually unique story!

September 20th, 2008 12:12 am

I thought this was a brilliant successor – and tribute, simultaneously – to the “Lovecraft Mythos”. It was great to see a work that both evoked the old feelings while not being a mere imitation of Lovecraft’s style.

And, yeah, the Christian fundamentalists CAN and sometimes DO go around invoking God and the Bible that much – and more. Not all of them, mind you, and some much more internally than others. But it does happen.

September 21st, 2008 10:55 pm

Hehehe, as a Lovecraft fan, this story made me smile. claps hands together like an idiot

September 29th, 2008 5:37 pm

Something I love in horror: Mixing familiar things together in a way that produces an unexpected result. I’ve always wanted to peek into the world of Alhazred, to see what the lurking fear was like from that perspective. Clearly this isn’t that perspective precisely, but having something of that voice of the Cthulhu experience mixed in with racial tension = awesome.

Ogion The Silent
September 30th, 2008 4:44 am

Did he really manage to write that story without mentioning Abdul Al-Hazred even once – or wasn’t I listening carefully enough? Great story, anyway – it somehow managed to steer the narrow path between being part of the Lovecraft mythos and subverting it.

October 1st, 2008 9:27 pm

Nice, a little Delta Green tale. Well written and full of clever inside references. I dig it.

October 5th, 2008 4:43 pm

What a story! Islam battling Dagon, you can’t get much better then that.

October 17th, 2008 8:12 pm

I enjoyed this. Lots of fun, pulpy ideas.

There was a little too much pop-culture name-checking (the very INVISIBLES-esque “forcing out the attempted possession” bit would have worked a bit better if we hadn’t have had Grant Morrison name-checked for no really discernible reason except, hey, he’s cool – which he is, and so is WSB, but come on) and I generally find that stories in which mankind has any hope at all in defeating Lovecraftian entities miss the point of Lovecraft entirely. But then, this is pulp and so we have to have a protagonist to root for, I guess.

And I can’t help but find it funny that the story gets praised for having a non-stereotypical “Muslim in hijacked airplane scenario” with nary a peep about a twinkling Dr. Smith (another name check, that) stereotype breezing through. Less prickly subject, I guess.

But it was all meant in good fun and good fun it was. Looking forward to more from this writer.

Also, as I never tire of this interesting subject, this was a another good example of a story that “read” well – I mean that not as a comment on whether it was good or bad story (I’m sure much Tom Clancy technospyfetishcrap “reads” well to whatever poor sods buy those audiobooks) or a well or poorly written story, but that the style lent itself to being read aloud. An example in the other direction was “The Teacher” which seemed like a story I probably would have enjoyed more on the printed page, but found a bit muddy and unfocused when read aloud (and, again to clarify, that’s no comment on the reader’s abilties either, which is another factor in the mix). There’s no quantifiable approach to my theory-in-progress yet (other than the obvious “first person narratives work better”), but I’m beginning to feel that something more than personal subjectivity might be at work.

No comments on the preceding few stories as they didn’t impress (“Pattern Masters” had promise, even with the un-engaging slacker artist characters, but for the monumentally underwhelming yet over-considered ending. “Dear Killer” – what can I say except that I saw this on an Alfred Hitchcock Presents repeat from the 1960’s when I was 8 and then read it in an issue of “House Of Secrets” when I was 10 and then…).

Thanks For Listening

“One must be cold if one wishes to savor chaos.”
Ferdinand Hardekopf, “The Mental Link” (1912)

Mike G
October 18th, 2008 3:23 pm

I didn’t get it. I thought it came off as angry and brooding, and the plot was not particularly original, except for the part that the protagonist was an Arab, which does not strike me as a very original twist.

October 18th, 2008 7:26 pm

Without siding with either, I’m glad there is at least one dissenting opinion in there. I know it is nice to have a supportive community, but when you publish fiction and ask others to spend time reading / listening to / thinking about what you have to say, you open yourself to criticism both good and bad.

That said, this story has some serious weaknesses. Teeth like piano keys? A family line of ancient assassins? The intentions are appreciated, but I think it missed the mark.

October 19th, 2008 11:59 am

Top Frickin Drawer! really outstanding and thank you.

November 26th, 2008 10:48 am

A very good and entertaining story. Thoughtful and thought provoking. So why mess it up with a simple mistake of having a 2 hour flight from La Guardia to Boston? This seems careless or dumb, neither of which the author demonstrated himself to be throughout the rest of the story. If you needed 2 hours (which he didn’t), fly him from another airport. This will sound like a minor nit to you, but it distracted me enough to cause a problem.

February 25th, 2009 7:31 pm

Originally published at Three-lobed Burning Eye magazine of speculative fiction issue #16 in January of 2007. Hey, Edward, how are you?