Sunday, February 7, 2016

In Amundsen’s Tent by John Martin Leahy

In Amundsen’s Tent 
by John Martin Leahy
originally Weird Tales January 1928

Very early Antarctic horror, and perhaps the first depending on how horrific is 1926's "Beyond the Pole" by A. Hyatt Verrill for Amazing Stories, which is about a race of lobster folk.

This piece is a bit more Lovecraftian and foreshadows the later In the Mountains of Madness.

Told in epistolary format of found notes, a group of explorers find tents in the Antarctic where no explorers have been before.  A nice eerie piece marred in a couple places by two of the worst cliches of weird fiction:

"It's too horrible to describe.  No seriously, you'll go crazy."  It's hard to get away with this, and Leahy doesn't.  Half of the story is characters trying to stop each other from looking in the tent repeating lines like the one above.  They then proceed to discuss where it might come from, what its purpose is, and what to do about it.  This kind of indescribable Stygian cyclopean only works in small doses when things are hinted at, not when you're bashing the reader over the head with it while rationally discussing the implications.

It luckily goes back to sparse explained creepiness for the end, though we have the inevitable "Oh no, I have to stop writing now because I'm about to...oh no, it got me.  I'm about to drop my pen" stuff.

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