Welcome to the “Behind the Shadows” series of blog posts, where every week we will share a peek inside the minds of our authors and learn about the stories behind the stories. This week, James Chambers shares the vision for Knicksport, the setting for his story, “Odd Quahogs.”
Allen Koszowski asked me that question when I wrote my first Knicksport story, “Refugees,” which he published in Allen K’s Inhuman magazine in 2004. Allen liked the name, but it reminded him of Kingsport, which Lovecraft first wrote of in “The Terrible Old Man” but which may be best known as the setting of “The Festival.” Why not simply set my story in that existing piece of Lovecraftian real estate, Allen wondered. A fair point. My answer was that, like some other authors playing in the Lovecraftian sandbox, I wanted to stake out, on Long Island, my own parcel of Lovecraft country, and that Knicksport, while sounding suitably Lovecraftian, derived its name from one of New York’s nicknames, “The Knickerbocker State.”
The setting held a deeper purpose, though.
What most interests me about writing Lovecraftian fiction is translating Lovecraft’s ideas to eras, settings, and social contexts other than those about which Lovecraft wrote. I wanted the freedom to stray from Arkham, Dunwich, Innsmouth, Kingsport, and the Miskatonic River—but without severing all ties to those classic locations.
Knicksport provided the perfect means to do that.
The town, loosely framed after my hometown of Northport, is actually an amalgam of several towns in the area, all of which share a key trait in common. During the Colonial Era, they were part of a region that—despite being on Long Island—lay under the governance of the New England colonies, linking them indelibly (in my opinion, anyway) to true Lovecraft Country—plus at least one witch was executed there, lending them a touch of that particular horror that shaded the history of their neighbors across the Long Island Sound, a history Lovecraft often drew upon for his stories. It also placed my town geographically near enough to New York City to open up a trove of story possibilities.
Allen liked my rationale well enough to go with Knicksport for the story.
Ten years later, I’m glad he did.
At the time I wrote “Refugees,” I had no plans to go back to Knicksport, but I have returned several times since. Most ambitiously in The Engines of Sacrifice, my collection of four, Lovecraftian novellas, which share Knicksport as a common thread. Each one takes place in a different time period, from the early 1970s to the far future, painting a sketchy sort of Lovecraftian history for the town and hinting at a deeper, more expansive horror lurking beneath the surface. Most recently, “Odd Quahogs,” my story in Shadows Over Main Street, took me back there, this time to Raker’s, a bar down by the harbor, to tell the tale of two Korean War veterans, one turned bayman, and the other, bar owner, in the late 1950s. Another slice of Knicksport’s Lovecraftian legacy, which dates to around 1930, shortly after the horrific events told of in “The Shadow Over Innsmouth.”
In The Engines of Sacrifice, each tale gravitates around a particular Old One: Azathoth, Shub-Niggurath, Nyarlathotep, and Cthulhu. Each one also shifts the Mythos to a particular, social or cultural niche of the time period: New York City’s witchcraft subculture of the 60s and 70s, early 80s horror comics, mid-80’ Cold War secret researchers, and a future network of underground speculative writers. When the germ of the idea for “Odd Quahogs” came to me, I decided to bring yet another Lovecraftian entity to town and cast it against the social undercurrents of the time. The result, “Odd Quahogs,” is a snapshot of Knicksport, where spoken and unspoken social barriers shape people’s everyday existence, and everyone lives in the shadows of dark forces, both human and inhuman.
Unlike when I wrote “Refugees,” however, when I finished “Odd Quahogs,” I knew I’d be returning to Knicksport. A couple of trips there are already planned.
More darkness to discover. More secrets to expose.
The town’s not done with me yet.
James Chambers’ tales of horror, crime, fantasy, and science fiction have been published in numerous anthologies, collections, and magazines. Publisher’s Weekly described The Engines of Sacrifice, his collection of four Lovecraftian-inspired novellas, as “chillingly evocative.” His other works include the novella Three Chords of Chaos, The Dead Bear Witness and Tears of Blood (the first two novellas in the Corpse Fauna series), and the story collections Resurrection House and The Midnight Hour: Saint Lawn Hill and Other Tales. His stories have appeared in the award-winning Bad-Ass Faeries and Defending the Future anthology series as well as Allen K’s Inhuman, The Avenger: Roaring Heart of the Crucible, Bare Bone, Chiral Mad 2, Clockwork Chaos, Deep Cuts, Fantastic Futures 13, The Green Hornet Chronicles, In an Iron Cage, The Spider: Extreme Prejudice, To Hell in a Fast Car, Truth or Dare?, Qualia Nous, Walrus Tales, With Great Power, and many others. He is online at www.jameschambersonline.com.
James’s story appears in Shadows Over Main Street from Hazardous Press, available now: http://www.amazon.com/Shadows-Over-Main-Street-Lovecraftian-ebook/dp/B00SXHSYUK/ref=zg_bs_tab_pd_bsnr_3
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