H. P. Luca

Disney has a lot of cash lying around, which means they can buy things.  One of those acquisitions, some years ago, was Pixar.  In my mind Pixar is now Disney, but in fact it does have a different aesthetic.  One of Pixar’s recurring themes is acceptance of those who are different.  Luca is Disney with a touch of Lovecraft.  This Pixar animation feature is about sea monsters acclimating to human culture, only they turn back into sea monsters when they get wet.  Kind of a combination between The Little Mermaid and Splash.  Even the Italian village in which Luca and his friend Alberto show up looks like the Imboca of Stuart Gordon’s Dagon (yes, I know Imboca is in Spain and I also know it’s fictional).  The villagers are, predictably, terrified of sea monsters since they earn their living from the sea.

In Luca once sea monsters come onto land they become human.  In fact, their culture below the surface is pretty much like human culture above.  The Lovecraftian element comes in the sea “monsters” (those in Luca are generally cute) coming to live among humans.  Lovecraft was, somewhat infamously, a racist.  While there’s no excusing that, there’s also no question that his fear of “the other” often develops the creepy atmosphere for which he became posthumously famous.  Cthulhu and many of the other great old gods dwell beneath the sea.  Human interactions with them generally lead to the humans becoming insane because of the implications.  Here Pixar adds its own twist—maybe humans are insane already.  What we permit in our societies is often less than humane.  At least with Lovecraft we could blame monsters.

Monsters are a reflection of humanity.  We take what we least like about ourselves and project it onto often fictional creatures that dwell beyond the bounds of human habitation.  We fear those who are different.  In more current thinking, that means humans should be accepting of other humans who don’t conform.  Those who think different, or, more especially, those who look different.  Sea monsters, at least hominid ones, hold great symbolic value.  They live in a world we barely know and to which we have little access.  Their lives under the great pressure of all that water must be very different from ours.  It’s only when we get beyond seeing them as monsters that we grow as humans.  If you follow the Creature of the Black Lagoon series to the end you see this playing out in black and white.  Sea monsters have much to teach us.

See Monster

What happens when someone encounters something anomalous?  In real life this is often described as a religious event.  In fiction that sometimes happens as well, as in Christopher Coleman’s The Sighting.  Set on a beach somewhere along the Atlantic, the story is about a woman who encountered a sea monster and decided it was a god.  Gods, of course, require sacrifice, and thus the tale turns on her effort to placate the beast in its current appearance cycle.  Such sacrifice doesn’t come willingly, and this introduces a murderous main plot.  Unlike the gods of lore, however, this one literally eats, tipping the reader off that its divinity is somewhat of an illusion.  The hungry beast becomes the divine only to its blind follower.

I’ve not read any of Coleman’s fiction before, and this self-published novel appears to be a good introduction to his story-crafting.  His monster, like a god, comes with no explanation.  It simply is.  Since religion isn’t really susceptible to being examined under a microscope, the truth of not being able to locate an origin for gods seems natural enough.  Still, people are curious about monstrous origins.  Mary Shelley tells us the genesis of Frankenstein’s monster, but Bram Stoker leaves Dracula’s ultimate origins somewhat misty.  In the present day, with its ubiquitous cell phones and information, we do wonder if monsters can’t simply be explained.  Even if that simple explanation is complex.  Coleman’s title page tells us this is book one, so further elucidation perhaps comes later in the series.

The sea, in classical thought, gives rise to monsters.  Coleman’s creature comes from the Atlantic.  All the world’s oceans are organically connected, and their surface area is so massive that we really haven’t figured out all of what’s under there.  Stories still appear in newspapers announcing this or that unidentified creature that has washed out of the sea.  Its depth and relative impenetrability make it a natural birthplace for monsters.  By the end of The Sighting the reader is really still only given a glimpse of what this god might be, or why, indeed, it is considered a god at all.  Origin stories make monsters less scary sometimes—Shelley’s genius was to take it in the opposite direction.  Often in horror stories, the humans are more frightening than the monsters.  So it is here.  What makes this story so disturbing is the unquestioning human acceptance of belief, for it is often here that gods can become monsters.