A Challenging Collaboration

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horrors_unknown_moskowitzI see my fellow blogger Deuce Richardson has mentioned “The Challenge From Beyond” in his recent post. Unlike “Ghor, Kin-slayer,” however, this round robin actually works as a story, though it certainly has its quirks.

Originally published in the fanzine “Fantasy Magazine” in 1935, and combining the efforts of C. L. Moore, A. Merritt, H. P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, and Frank Belknap Long, this is more commonly available in Sam Moskowitz’s Horrors Unknown or as a Necronomicon Press chapbook — it’s also free online, having fallen into public domain. Another story of the same title was also created for “Fantasy Magazine” at the same time, with the same title, but this was a science fiction story by five science fiction writers.

One supposes Robert E. Howard was attracted by the idea of collaborating with H. P. Lovecraft — whose contribution is actually the largest. The gist of the story is that a man discovers a crystal cube of extraterrestrial origin, one that has the effect of capturing his soul and transporting it to another world, where he awakes in the form of a giant worm. Perhaps the most infamous part is where the shock of this transformation causes Lovecraft’s protagonist to drop dead in a faint, at which point Robert E. Howard has him awake to shrug it off in a “shit happens” manner and go on a barbaric killing spree. Here Howard’s hero, on a quest for ultimate power, takes the globe that is the god of Yekub in his centipedal grasp.

But perhaps the best writing is Frank Belknap Long’s conclusion. Striving to knit together the disparate strands of what has gone before, he tells of the doom of the man’s body now occupied by an alien mind, and of the benevolent rule of the worm body now controlled by a human mind.