The Liner Notes: “Washed Up Upon the Shore”

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Ever since I discovered the compelling and lore-rich Bloodborne, I’ve been on a Lovecraft kick. I’m not a fan of his views or the man himself but the cosmology fascinates me, as does how other people have taken the mythology and made it their own. Case in point: I absolutely love Ruthanna Emrys’ The Litany of Earth; that’s the kind of mythos story I’ve always wanted to read and news of more Aphra Marsh books coming next year really excites me. As does The Old Hunters DLC recently released for Bloodborne (see here, here and, most importantly, here).

The only story I ever actually liked out of Lovecraft’s collective fiction was The Shadow of Innsmouth (which is also why I love The Old Hunters and the corpse of Mother Kos. Litany also focuses on what happened to the people of the town after the government bombed the sacred Old One reef and put them into camps far from the ocean). Dreams and the Old Ones go together but it was the lure of the sea which interested me. Plus I wanted to do something fantastical and secondary-worldy.

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The key for me was the idea that the sea is the gate to immortality. My protagonist is a man living in a seashore village who has an otherworldly connection to the ocean, it calls to him and he is receptive. His village has a spirituality revolving around the waters; the dead are sunk beneath with pearls beneath their lips as payment, their bodies becoming part of the ocean environment and they are also aware of a culture mirrored beneath the waves; once there was a town where there is now only underwater ruins with creatures living within.

The Faith of the Sea has the status of a minor cult but by the end of the story is a mainstream religion. Balem, my protagonist, is a priest when it is a cult and by the end of the story it’s one of the greater faiths that move over the land constituting the Twilight Empire. The Empire is minor in this story but it’s ruler the Empress Caisha is not, not is she quite as she appears and only certain people can see her with unclouded eyes and a mind able to survive the revelation.

Worshipping the sea is, as a concept, not new. It’s one of the primal forces of life, like fire and the seasons. A couple of years ago, while in Japan, I went to Teramachi (translated as ‘Temple Town’) in Kyoto and just wandered. There were a number of temples and a couple of shines but one took my interest because the kami being worshiped inside was this beautifully carved wooden octopus. I snapped an image of it because it struck me as beautiful in a weird way, octopi are about as alien as sea life can get and it sat in my brain, asking what else could live under the ocean on a world that isn’t quite Earth.

And what else drifted through the heavens.

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I quite enjoy writing secondary worlds, world building is after all my thing and I’ve always found the dark depths of the sea to be disturbing, unknown and dangerous. I also wrote this piece in second person as I wanted it to be really immersive and just a little bit creepy even though the narrator is referenced as male. My other issue is I tend to write passive characters. This is probably because I’ve spent much of my life unconsciously being like that and am now making an effort to be much more active; Balem lies to get into the entourage of the Twilight Empress and as the great monarch herself says:

“I do not punish honesty but I don’t forget liars.”

 I love that line, I think it’s my favourite of the entire story.

“Washed Up Upon the Shore” went out on submission this week, I have high hopes for it so here’s hoping it sells.

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