Thursday, August 13, 2015

PROVIDENCE - Issue 3 - a review

Robert Black continues his investigations, has deep dreams and finds his hosts kindly to 'this herald fella'.

Caution Spoilers

Robert sets off for the Bloggs' gold refinery in Salem - passing through the theatre strike and the start of prohibition, as background. All nicely done, and a bit of history (the clash between the theatre owners and the actors union's, of which I was unaware.) It's the 1st July 1919 as the issue starts.

Who are the woman and the child on the train, as he goes, I don't know, but they may be significant or they may be chorally raising a theme that is coming, fear of the unalike, racism in its weakest form, they're going to stay with grandma while the child's father whom we do not see, looks for  'somewhere where there are more people like us, wouldn't that be nice.'

The Oannes look (the Innsmouth look) of those who have cross-bred with the Deep Ones (Sunk 'ems) is prevalent in the folks he meets in Salem, who also include the old man from The Terrible Old Man - who keeps the souls of drowned sailors in bottles, and the unusually youthful giant, from The Picture In The House - who preserves himself by more straightforward cannibalism. He is treated with every courtesy and shown the tunnels from Alan Moore's neonomonicon which already have their orgone accumulation aspect and their obscene graffitti.  It seems obvious that when his hosts speak of him as 'the Herald' they arn't referring to his role as a newspaper man (formerly of the Daily Herald) but of a future role as a 'bringer of the (their) word' the John the Baptist (as it might be) of the Christ (Cthulhu).
[This is the role played by Johnny Carcosa in the Neonomicon, who is also in an earlier dream of Robert's reported in the text of the coomplace book at the back of the issue.]

 The fellowship of Oannes stands in for the Order Of Dagon, as Athol to which he is travelling at the end stands in for Dunwich and Misery maybe stands for Devil's Reef.  The names of the characters echo Lovecraft's as before. This has the same problems as per previous issues, so I won't harp on that again.

The Robert Black = Robert Block(Bloch) link is made text rather than subtext in the hotel, and Robert has a many leveled dream, which conflates future history (the holocaust and the gas chambers) with 'fictional history' which is still in his fictional future (the FBI raids on Innsmouth, here on Salem - as Alan Moore confessed he misapplied the correspondance in the neonomicon, but continues with it here) and the fictional elements of his past (Chambers' 'gas chambers! and exit gardens).  The use of the fill-foot (swastica) as the symbol of those opposing the Oannes cultists reminds us also of the (real) horrors to come.

 I enjoyed this issue most of the three so far, and I liked the other two.  I'm giving this an 8 rather than a 7.

I still have concerns that the ah 'final solution' as to where good and evil lies 'under' Providence will be hard to depict without making a tonal mistep.  On the one hand cultists and bodies of men dedicated to esoteric works, who are clearly shown as being willing to sacrifice innocent victims, on the other hand a movement against them which is tainted with racism and ignorance and violence.  (For another take on this my own: The Temple of Dagon which covers some of the same ground is still available as an e-book from amazon, or for free elsewhere on the net.)  There are two evil extremes of danger here: (1) saying 'well say what you like about racism but it's okay against deep ones' before realising you're going to end up including Jews and Gypsies and Homosexuals as 'sinister cultists' or (2) saying 'well of course human sacrifice, cannibalism, rape-in-orgy, and childhood mutilation* [see the leaflet at the end] are fine if they're 'in the course of a magical/cultural tradition'.  I remain hopeful that as a humanist writer, Alan Moore will show a path through these two horrors and show that the path is 'love', but how he will do so, we will have to wait to see. The love between Zeke Hillman and Negathlia-Lou (and Alan Moore's coinages for Deep One names are marvellous) *could* have served such a purpose if it weren't undercut by Zeke's casual reduction of their interaction to a sexual one in his nudge-nudge comments about 'them island women' to Robert. [Which if it's intended to entice him into the cult is falling on deaf gay ears.]

*That leaflet at the end is a weakness in a supposedly mimetic text, to my mind, in as much as clearly it could never be safely handed to an ordinary human. Of course Black is thoroughly 'surrounded', but even so - it would if taken seriously invite exactly the kinds of reprisals against the Deep Ones mentioned at the end of The Shadow Over Innsmouth.  It's a joke in a metasense (and it is very funny), but it can almost only work in the context of the fiction itself as it its also a joke on Robert Black, specially printed for him, with the others being all 'normal' church business.  It's depiction of a baptism for infants at ten, at which the 'sex-stick is shed' could depict a instar change in the human/deep one hybrid stock - but as a ritual its hard to think Moore does not mean it to chime with the Jewish bar mitzvah at 13, and with more widespread ritual male and female circumcison. 

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