I don’t know about the rest of you, but I personally am really looking forward to October this year. So many cool things happening then, and even the sad ones are still good ones.
It’s in this mood that I have decided to share my good fortune with you all. So for the month of October this year, in addition to the regular daily features, I shall be reading a chapter of Roger Zelazny’s “A Night in the Lonesome October“, and live-blogging my thoughts on it as I do. I can’t promise that these posts will come at any particular time of day, but I guarantee you one each day, no matter what 🙂
Now, since “A Night in the Lonesome October“ is possibly the greatest crossover story of all time, it will be replacing the regular Crossing Over feature for the month – if you’re really anxious to find out what I plan to cross Pirates of the Carribean over with, I’m afraid you’re going to be waiting until November 5 to find out – but I think it will be worth it.
Welcome to the Lonesome October. Meet Snuff.
Snuff is a watchdog of unusual intelligence, who serves a man named Jack in the countryside abutting Victorian London.
For only three pages, Zelazny crams a lot into Snuff’s introduction – a mention of curses he and Jack keep, monsters they imprison, hints Snuff’s powers and possible origins, and a nasty bit of business that looks like it might occupy the entire month of October – plus a small amount of preparatory grave-robbing connected to the nasty business, and the first mention of ‘the competition’.
October the First is an uneventful day. Snuff makes his rounds, and threatens each of the imprisoned Things – the one in the circle, the ones in the mirror, the one in the steamer trunk and the one in the wardrobe – into quiescence, then settles down to Watch.
Watching is Snuff’s function – he is a watchdog (who was once something else – possibly a demon) before Jack summoned him and gave him the form and function he now bears.
Okay, so it’s a slow start, but good things take time, and this is one the best. The first few chapters are short, but they don’t stay that way very long 🙂
Also, starting sometime over this weekend, I’ll be adding a character guide to these posts, to help you keep track of the players.
Day two, and we meet Graymalkin, the cat who is the familiar of the witch Crazy Jane, and a brief conversation ensues, in which we learn the names of two more sets of players and familiars: Morris & McNab, and their owl Nightwind, add the mad monk Rastov, along with his snake Quicklime.
We meet yet another player, the Count and his familiar, Needle – as well as the mysterious pursuer of Snuff.
Yet another new player is introduced – Cheeter the squirrel, who is familiar to an old man of possibly druidic inclinations. There’s also a mention of the dour detective and his portly friend, a mysterious other canine about and finally, some hints as to the nature of the Game.
In particular, it’s made clear that this game – already fairly obviously supernatural in nature – has two factions, Openers and Closers. Of course, we don’t know what side anyone is on. Yet.
Jack and Snuff:
Let’s see: crazy dude with a knife, cutting up the living in Victorian London, and named Jack? The Ripper himself, naturally. Also, of course, Snuff’s name is a dreadful pun.
Crazy Jill and Graymalkin:
A witch and the black cat that is her familiar – Graymalkin is also the name of the witch’s familiar in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Graymalkin delights in being contrary about as much as Snuff delights in being loyal.
Morris & MacCab and Nightwind:
Little is known about this faction yet, but their use of mummy dust and exploits in a cemetary are suggestive of grave-robbery. They may be inspired by Burke and Hare.
Rastov and Quicklime:
A mad Russian monk and his snake – who lives in his belly. Most likely inspired by Rasputin.
The Count and Needle:
We don’t know much about them as yet, but really, some guy calling himself the Count? Could it be our old friend Vlad Tepes?
Owen and Cheeter:
Again, we don’t know much, but the old man harvests mistletoe and his companion is a squirrel, so he’s most likely a druid.
The Good Doctor and his servant:
We know little of them other than that the Doctor seems to be a mad scientist of some description – possibly Dr. Frankenstein? Now confirmed.
The Other Canine/Larry Talbot:
Larry Talbot is the human name of the Wolfman from the old Universal horror movies of the thirties and such. Which is to say: he’s a werewolf.
The Dour Detective and his Rotund Companion:
Surely you’ve already recognized Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson? 🙂
Snuff and Graymalkin continue their unlikely alliance, and trade information with Nightwind the owl, learning of the Good Doctor and his servant. More information emerges regarding the mysterious other canine’s actions, but little more than he attacked and mauled an unidentified man.
We learn a little more about the Game – namely, that wherever the players gather, the actual mysterious event takes place in the centre. But Snuff cannot find the centre yet, which may be because he lacks the Count’s location, or because there are yet more players in the Game.
Introducing yet another player – Bubo the Rat, who works with the Good Doctor and his creation, and who provides Snuff with the location of the Count’s place.
Fascinatingly, we are privy to a conversation between Jack and Snuff, although in content it serves little more than to codify what we already know.
Zelazny is in fine form here, with clever puns and his memorable description of the items needed for particular conjurations necessitating “lunatic scavenger hunts”.
Another new player in the game, the revelation that Snuff and Jack are not the only veterans of this, and a tantalising hint of what the game is actually about – not to mention the first attempts of various players to knock each other out of the running.
See the Character Guide for more information about Mr Lawrence Talbot.
More revelations, and an alliance.
That this might be the case the Great Detective was investigating is hardly a shock, and if you’ve taken a look at the Character Guide already, you’ll have a pretty good idea of why Talbot watches the Moon so assiduously. His mention of a prior encounter with the Count is intriguing (not least because there exists no documentation of them meeting any time before they each met Frankenstein, Abbott and Costello in 1948).
Most interesting is Larry’s making free with information that everyone else is very careful with. The Count, apparently, is an Opener, while Jack, Snuff and Talbot are all opposed to him – Closers, to take a hint from Talbot’s remark yesterday. But Opening or Closing what is still unclear.
It’s hard to say what is the most interesting aspect of today’s installment – is it the Count’s mysterious movements, Larry Talbot’s peculiar flower or the strange goings on at the laboratory of the Good Doctor? Belatedly, it occurs to me that Morris & MacCab were probably not the only grave-robbers around.
One third of the way through the month, and it seems a good time to note that so far, we only have identification of one set of players’ allegiances in the Game – and given that they appear to be Jack the Ripper and his watchdog who is a transformed demon, it’s hard to be to sure they’re on the side of what is right and true. Especially since it appears that Mr Sherlock Holmes opposes them. As for the rest of the players, well, Talbot knows the Count of old, and thus he is on the other side from Jack (which is not necessarily the same side as Holmes). Everyone else, despite the actions they may have taken, remains a question mark, although one assumes that Morris & MacCab are not on the same side as Crazy Jane.
A brief installment, but a telling one. Holmes and Watson are clearly very interested in this case, but Snuff may have thrown them off the trail for a while at least.
More interesting is this business of lines – the ones Snuff draws in his head, a skill which is apparently solely the role of the familiars rather than the humans in this business, if Jack’s deference to Snuff in this matter is anything to go by. These lines connect the residences of the various players, and the point where they all intersect is where the Game itself will be decided. But where is that? And have we even met all the players yet? Do Holmes and Watson count as players?