Tonight I want to talk about the supernatural premise of ‘The Eldritch Kid.’
In the original mini-series, the Kid speculates briefly about the world and why, in this Strange America, magic, monster and myths are real and everybody knows it. He claims that something happened at the Battle of Gettysburg, specifically during the vicious fighting around Cemetery Hill. Something… very wrong… came into the world that day.
The Kid is actually slightly mistaken in his description of how magic came into this world.
It was there all along.
Like, well, everyone, I’ve long been fascinated by what strange theologies and ideologies, metaphysics and philosophies ruled human thought. From owl-eyed sorcerers daubed on the walls, celebrating cavemen shamans, the stately Geomancy of the mighty Chinese dynasties, to the mathematical precision of Neo-Platonism, that arcana of thought has been a lifelong fascination. If you’re reading this, I’d be willing to be your incohate reading was all Loch Ness Monster and UFO picture books, too. A self-initiation that only ends when you’re done with it.
So the drive for the occult, the hidden, to access a world beyond the world, a direction no compass can find, has been with us from the start of our species. The ancients, of course, were not stupid. They were cosmopolitan people for cosmopolitan times. You’d have more in common with a Roman citizen than you’d suspect, I’d wager. The letters and pen-portraits we have like the cantankerous librarians and irascible scholars of the Great Library all paint pictures to me of old men and women who you’d recognise today.
But the believed some odd things. Things that to us seem rather incredible. Their experience with religion was one of the things we would differ on. You could whinge with a Roman citizen about your bastard of a landlord and then talk sports. What you couldn’t do is talk about seeing Mithras or Isis. Seeing them.
In his rather excellent book, ‘Literature of the Gods’, Roberto Calasso points out that in ancient literature, even in the primitive histories, Gods would happily show up and interact with people. It was sort of an accepted fact of life. Today, the modern theories about these human interactions with Gods and Monsters is physiological. A thing of bi-cameral brains and non-urban living. (Something I’d like to see some experiments on before I’d wholeheartedly agree with.) Or we talk about these ancient things in terms of psychological constructs, we have to rely on that old mystic Jung to provide us hopelessly degraded words like ‘Archetypes’ to hang our supernal experiences on.
Whatever the supernatural world was, we once experienced it in a very, very different way that we do now: fiction.
Very simply, then, Eldritch Kid is about what happens when the world of the divine and monstrous is as real as the screen in front of your race and the eyes reading these words. It is about an entire culture where there is no doubt about the existence of things from far afield.
I’ve sort of got a whole timeline mapped out in my head about where things differ from our history and where they don’t. It’s nothing as complex as an exercise in counter-factual history. It’s not an elaborate timeline like ‘410 AD, Alaric and Mephistophelese use black magic to destroy Rome.’ No. It’s more about cultural influences, personal attitudes.
It’s about how people think and what they feel. It’s about our relationships with our Gods if we could talk to them outside our heads.
And so it is with magic. The magic of the Eldritch Kid world isn’t that of the computer game or the fantasy novel. This isn’t a place of fireballs and dragon-riding. Which isn’t to say that I have no interest in such things. I wrote a high, dark fantasy OGN called Witch King that revels in such things. Rather, in Eldritch Kid, I wanted to have a look at the occult technology we now called Folk Magic. If the myth is there, why not the tools to access the truth behind the myth. Today, we call these things Pow Wow and Spielwork. Candomble and Voudou. I wanted to examine what the world would be like if we could each reliably access the divine every day. Would we come to treat it with the familiar contempt we treat the lightbulb, the toaster and cask wine? Or would we be reminded each day of the realities of a spiritual experience?
I bought up before the idea of an alternative timeline. It’s true that I have other ideas for stories in this world. It’s the old West that it seems to me that we have colossal clashes of imagination. The train, the telegraph pole, hell, even Government comes up against pure myth of open spaces, violent and injust men versus violent and just ones. Of women with iron determination, refusing predation. There is good and evil if you want to see it and rather more grey if you have eyes to see. (And the Old West itself is just a story Buffalo Bill told us to put bums on seats but that’s another entry.) It’s like comic’s old pal Fred Wertham says, ‘There are pictures in pictures if you know how to look.’
And so the Strange West, in our story, becomes another place where stories collide. The secular mythology of the West as we understand it now. And the additonal clash of cowboys who take on dark crusades from corpse-hungry gods and shamans who need to find which worlds they stand between.
Also, it’s about two leather-tough sumbitches killing monsters, divils, ‘n such. With a hint of what mad, bad thing did happen on the third night at Cemetery Hill. Mind you, I’m holding out on that story till we get desperate. Look for Eldritch Kid: Dead Horse Flog round 2015 or therebouts…
- Christian D. Read