Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Bonus Crossover of the Week (RIP Rick Lai)

Autumn 1866


Anis-ed-Dowleh, the Shah of Persia’s favorite wife, shows Haji Abdu, the Daroga of the Secret Police, the corpse of a handmaiden allegedly murdered by Erik, the court illusionist. Erik mentioned to the Shah’s spouse he had been trained to kill with the Punjabi lasso by the deposed Maharani of Pankot. Haji Abdu and Erik discuss the rebel leader Mokanna, whose cult was led by Abd Dhulma after his death. Erik shows the Daroga a map he acquired in the mountain citadel Yolgan, which has the words, “The Lord of the Empty Abode,” “The Lord of Illusion,” and “The Lord of the Fourth Axis” written on it. Mokanna appears to the duo, saying they have resurrected him by summoning the Three Avatars of Yog-Sothoth. Mokanna names the sorcerers of Lemuria and Attluma, including Thulsa Doom, Kathulos, Rotath, Mardanax, and Descales, each of whom performed the Black Litany to infuse their souls with the Torch Fire of Nug. Erik’s nom de guerre is derived from Erlik of the Dark Star, whom Mokanna describes as a minor entity eclipsed by the cosmic splendor of the Lord of the Fourth Axis and his twin spawn, Nug and Yeb. Mokanna evokes the Moon of Yian, saying Nug demands a Red Offering in exchange for bestowing his Torch Fire upon Erik. 

Short story by Rick Lai in Tales of the Shadowmen Volume 12: Carte Blanche, Jean-Marc and Randy Lofficier, eds., Black Coat Press, 2015; reprinted in French in Les Compagnons de l’Ombre (Tome 20), Jean-Marc Lofficier, ed., Rivière Blanche, 2017. Haji Abdu is from Sir Richard Francis Burton’s poem “The Kasîdah of Hâjî Abdû El-Yezdî.” He is also mentioned in Philip José Farmer’s authorized Doc Savage novel Escape from Loki. Lai conflates Haji Abdu with the Persian from Gaston Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera. Erik is the title character of that book. Pankot is from the movie Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Mokanna is from “The Veiled Prophet of Khorassan,” the first of four poems in Thomas Moore’s collection Lalla-Rookh, as well as Sax Rohmer’s The Mask of Fu Manchu. Abd Dhulma is from G. G. Pendarves’ “Abd Dhulma, Lord of Fire.” Yolgan is from Robert E. Howard’s El Borak stories. The Lord of the Empty Abode is the title of Yog in Robert E. Howard’s Conan story “Shadows in Zamboula.” “The Lord of Illusion” and “The Lord of the Fourth Axis” are stories by E. Hoffmann Price. Here, the three Lords are all avatars of Yog-Sothoth, one of the Great Old Ones of H. P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos. Attluma and Descales are from the works of David C. Smith. Thulsa Doom is from Howard’s Kull tale “The Cat and the Skull.” Kathulos is from Howard’s “Skull-Face” and “Taverel Manor,” the latter completed posthumously by Richard A. Lupoff. Rotath is from the Kull story “The Curse of the Golden Skull.” Mardanax is from Lin Carter’s Thongor novels. Nug and Yeb are from various Lovecraft collaborations: “Out of the Aeons” (co-written by Hazel Heald), “The Mound” (coauthored by Zealia Bishop), and “The Last Test” (co-penned by Adolph de Castro). The Black Litany of Nug and Yeb is from Joseph S. Pulver’s poem of the same name. Erlik of the Dark Star is from Robert W. Chambers’ The Dark Star. The Moon of Yian is from Chambers’ “The Maker of Moons.” The Red Offering is from Lin Carter’s Cthulhu Mythos story of the same name. 

As I wrote on Facebook yesterday, RIP my friend Rick Lai, an amazing human and writer. In the 1980s, he wrote articles expanding on the Wold Newton concepts of Philip Jose Farmer and continued it after the Wold Newton websites began appearing with Win Scott Eckert’s in 1997. He broke into fiction writing beginning with the story “The Last Vendetta” in the first TALES OF THE SHADOWMEN anthology, and consistently turned out quality work. I am honored to have had my first published story in close proximity to his contribution in the last TALES. I was constantly in awe of the depth of his knowledge and retention of pop cultural details, and I genuinely believe he was a genius. We also shared a love of Spaghetti Westerns, which he drew from often in his fiction. I’m in shock right now, and I am deeply saddened that I will never see him again. FarmerCon this year will be bittersweet without him.

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