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  • TITLE: Journey Into Darkness
  • AUTHOR: Frank Belknap Long
  • AWARDS:Lifetime Bram Stoker,World Fantasy


    “I don't know, Sheriff,” Gordon said. “I just don't know. I feel as if we were living through a kind of nightmare and that we're not going to escape from it the easy way—simply by waking up.”

    -- Belmont Books (B50-757) PBO, c.1967, p.84


    This novel has little to recommend it to a modern reader. Certainly not its prosaic dialogue from the mouths of whoishe? characters. Plotwise, it starts off like a Christie Mystery: you know, halfadozen people show up to a remote, seaside cliff cottage in Maine for the summer and some psychological games, then, onebyone, get broiled out like lobster on tonight's menu. Halfway through, it turns to the Lovecraftian run-screaming device bogging over scary sand dunes and ending up in the Mad Scientist's underground laboratory fighting off “a color that is actually alive and could destroy our minds”, or a “non-Euclidean shape so many-angled and prism-dazzling that we could not look at it for long and remain sane” (p.99). We're not really sure, you see, because it's fuckin' invisible! What we do know is that it's wetbacking through a portal inadvertently opened by a brilliant-but-misunderstood, world-famous psychologist-guru, and that it's “an alien encroachment from beyond the stars or some unimaginable dimension of space-time” (p.154). Any other characters—like The Hero, The Heroine, The Sheriff, The-Little-Boy-on-the-Beach-with-Insight—I can't discuss because I can't remember them. And I finished the book a coupla hours ago.

    Long must have realized he had sum explanin' to do, because there's an inordinate amount of time spent lecturing, which ends up about as believable as the alien “anguish beyond our capacity to imagine” (p.60). Essentially, he sleight-hands the Jungian collective consciousness notion of shared images into a defense mechanism to protect us from the real horror behind the universal mask thrown up by our subconscious. In the decade of Bush and Cheney, this is about as reassuring as Weapons of Mass Destruction found in Iraq. Besides Jung, Long uses Wilhelm Reich and H.P. Lovecraft to add credibility and authentication.

    More importantly, however, in the socio-political arena, is the subtextual warning against what happens when you attempt to expand your consciousness beyond everyday, tow-the-line, goosestepping existence. The Mad Scientist wants to try “every consciousness-expanding . . . hallucination-creating technique” (p.38) incorporating Yoga, magical incantations, and, yes, LSD. Remember kiddies, it's 1967. His patients start to see “little waltzing death heads in the depths of his eyes” (p.75). Do I need to hammer my sickle any further? If you think so, follow this link to more rantings.

    That Long would consider HPL a maven as well as a mentor is understandable. When Lovecraft read his early story published in an amateur press, “The Eye Above The Mantel” in 1921, he wrote to Frank in praise, thus starting a close and lifelong friendship. Long probably deserves a deeper read than just this one, obscure novel; although I have read “The Hounds of Tindalos” (c.1929) and was not particularly impressed. He was, however, a prolific writer during a very pivotal era in Fantasist Literature. He broke his teeth with Weird Tales and Arkham House, then successfully transformed his rather caliginous fiction to the rigors of Campbell's Astounding and also Unknown 1930s pulp magazines. In the 1950s, Long pulled off another venue jump into the paperback original novel market, of which Journey into Darkness fits into the tail of that era. Well respected by his peers, he edited Fantasy & SciFi mags during the 1960s, wrote poetry, and even scripted some comicbooks for EC. After seven decades of writing and at the age of 93, he went to the box in 1994.


    © copyright 03/30/2007 by Larry Crawford

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